Great Teachers

What Great Teachers Do Differently!

Title: What Great Teachers Do Differently: 14 Things That Matter Most

Author: Todd Whitaker

Credibility: Todd Whitaker has been a math teacher, basketball coach, principal (for middle school, junior high, and high school), and a middle school coordinator (for staffing, curriculum, and technology). He is "one of the nation's leading authorities on staff motivation, teacher leadership, and principal

1. It's People, Not Programs

          No matter what programs the school might use (back to basics, direct instruction, open classroom, assertive discipline), effective educators will make it work, and ineffective educators won't. The variable is not the program, but the teacher and how they implement it.

2. The Power of Expectations

          Expectations focus on the positive while rules focus on the negative. To me, this chapter seems to align itself with the W. Clement Stone quote: "Aim for the moon. If you miss, you may hit a star." Expect good behavior, and that's what you'll get.

3. Prevention vs Revenge

          The effective teacher focuses on how to prevent a behavior from happening again. The ineffective teacher focuses on revenge against the student for doing the behavior.

4. High Expectations—for Whom?

          Even the ineffective teachers have high expectations for their students. The difference is that the great teachers have high expectations for themselves, as well.

5. Who Is the Variable?

          The only variable that the teacher can absolutely control is him- or herself.

6. Ten Days out of Ten

          The effective teacher strives to remain positive every day, no matter what else might be going on in their life, or any problems with students or parents.

7. The Teacher Is the Filter

          Students pick up on the tone of their teacher's behavior: effective educators approach things in a positive manner. This harkens back to the previous chapter, of being positive every day.

8. Don't Need to Repair—Always Do Repair

          The effective teachers don't need to repair situations (because there's nothing to repair), but they apologize anyway ("sorry if I was rushed yesterday," even if the students didn't perceive that); the ineffective teachers do need to repair situations (they might have been in a bad mood yesterday and were short with the students) but never do.

9. Ability to Ignore

          Effective teachers know how to ignore the minor things (and how to tell the minor from the major), while ineffective teachers might nitpick everything.

10. Random or Plandom?

          The ineffective teacher seems to have no plan and don't want to take responsibility when things go wrong. The effective teacher reflects on why things didn't go according to plan and figures out what to do differently next time.

11. Base Every Decision on the Best People

          Focus on what the best students will think, instead of aiming for the middle or aiming at the worst students. Aiming high goes back to chapter 2: if you expect your students to be more like the best, that's what they'll start to become.

12. In Every Situation, Ask Who Is Most Comfortable and Who Is Least Comfortable

          The ineffective educators create situations where the "worst" students are most comfortable and the "best" students are least comfortable. The effective educator creates situations where the "best" students feel comfortable, and the "worst" students feel uncomfortable and like they want to change (in a positive way).

13. What About These Darn Standardized Tests?

          Effective teachers keep testing in perspective: state standards allow teachers to focus on how the students learn, instead of focusing on what the curriculum was.

14. Make It Cool to Care 

          "The key is to develop and establish a school-wide environment that supports everyone's effort to do what is right. If we create an environment where each person does what is best for the students and for the school, we will seldom make a wrong decision. Getting people to do the current thing is fine. Getting people to do the right thing is essential." (p 116)