I have been a follower of The Responsive Classroom for some time now, as, while I don't claim to know an awful lot about it, I identify strongly with many of the ideas and values underpinning the work. I recently read this blog entry about building high morale. It all start with the teachers and developing core teacher competencies in the following areas:
- Engaging Academics: How to offer academic lessons and assignments that are active, interactive, appropriately challenging, and connected to students' lives. Children's motivation, mastery, creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving all rise as a result.
- Positive Community: Strategies for creating a climate in which every student feels safe, valued, and part of a community. Such a climate encourages children to take the risks necessary for learning.
- Effective Management: Skill in teaching behavior expectations, managing schedules, and organizing physical spaces in ways that build students' autonomy and focus.
This makes a lot of sense to me as a teacher and as a leader of learning in other teachers. So often, engaging academics miss the mark because of poor management of time, or resources, or behaviour; similarly, fantastic resources result in little learning if they do not support lessons that are appropriately challenging or relevant; and classrooms may run like clockwork and be academically rigorous, but without the right emotional climate, learning is stunted. And as teachers we are often naturally stronger in one domain than another.
The article also highlights the need for a combination of passion and skill - teachers arriving in the profession with the right passion need the right skills developed if they are actually to help children succeed. I'd go one step further to reiterate this connection. While passion is something that tends to wax and wane through our professional and personal life stages, having the right skills to see children succeed in your care is a fairly sure way to keep the passion burning.
If we're serious about creating successful students, we have to be serious about creating successful teachers first.