Type of Teachers

I used to think there were two different types of teachers. Quite simply, I thought there were good teachers and there were bad teachers and that was it. Good teachers were those that were excellent at what they did every single day in the classroom and in every aspect of being a teacher. They taught dynamic lessons, contributed to the school and continuously evolved their craft to be better. Bottom line, they were good. Bad teachers were those that were unable to connect with kids and had bad instructional techniques. They couldn't control their classes. Parents were always complaining about them. When I was in a meeting with these bad teachers I couldn't stand being around them. They seemed to be doing the same thing every year and in the same way. At the end of the day, these were the teachers that were talked about in the teacher’s lounge and people counted down the days until they retired.

For the longest time I thought that was it. Those were the two different types of teachers. You're either a good teacher who deserved to work with kids every day or you were a bad teacher and you deserved to be fired. However, I'm beginning to see a third type of teacher which might be the most prevalent and also the most important.

This third type of teacher looks suspiciously similar to a bad teacher. Yet, if you look closer and boil it down these teachers are doing the best they know how and that's it. They may not be good teachers, but then again they may not have ever been told how to be one. They don't know how to improve or how to teach any other way. They are just teaching the way they always have or the way in which they themselves were taught. At the end of the day they think they're doing right because they don't know any other way. These teachers often get frustrated when people think they're bad teachers. This is because they think they're good because they're doing the best they know how and they don't know any other way.

With this in mind I would like to think that there are three distinctly different types of teachers and they should each be treated differently. There are still good teachers out there that still fit in the definition above. We need to celebrate these teachers and model our work after and around them. I also think there are bad teachers out there but I revise my earlier definition. The way I see it now, a bad teacher is one that has been shown a better way to do something and refuses to change. They are making a choice not to change even if they have been provided the chance to do so and clear evidence that it helps kids. In my opinion, we need to help these people find a way to do something else for a living. Finally, I see those “other” teachers that just need a guiding hand or the inspiration to change. The good teachers have an obligation to not complain about these teachers but instead to mentor and help them be better at what they do.

What kind of teacher are you? More importantly, what kind of teachers are you working with and what are you doing about it? Are you pushing your peers to be better and helping them on their journey? Who do you turn to in an effort to improve yourself?


David said...

I think that there are shades of grey, and it is not necessary to divide people so neatly into categories.

There are people who are good teachers on some days, and bad teachers on other days. There are people who are somewhere between bad and good, and others who are just starting on their journey to becoming a great teacher.

Your observation that there are plenty of teachers who just cannot see that what they are doing isn't as good as it could be is right on the money. We don't know what we don't know.

Dan Fouts said...

I see more of a bewildering variety of goodness and badness. A teacher who is adept at cooperative learning strategies may be very uncomfortable holding the attention of the entire room. Conversely, somebody who can command a room may be unable to relinguish control in a cooperative learning setting.

Or a teacher who is a great vision planner may struggle with day-to-day details and a detail oriented teacher may not be able to set a clear direction for class. So, in most cases, the goodness and badness manifests itself within different SKILLS of a teacher, not the types of teachers themselves.

Although the diganosis above is different than what you have posted, Josh, I would agree with the value of focusing on self-improvement. Great teachers are in the process of identifying their weaknesses and searching for resources which address them.

Krissy (@ktvee) said...

I think this is so important to realize. Sometimes people ARE doing the best they know how. They're not following tradition out of any reason other than they think it's best. They may have the best intentions, even if they are misguided. Look at most undergrad programs and how they prepare us, or rather, fail to prepare us.

I always think in my head, there are two types. The teacher I am, and the teacher I'm trying to be. And I think I'll forever be searching, trying, and moving toward the teacher I want to try to be... because that's what it's about.

William Chamberlain said...

Most teachers teach like they were taught. The conversation needs to change from teacher behavior (teaching) to student behavior (learning). If we could concentrate on how to get students to learn better it would be much easier to identify what teachers need to do better too.

Miss. Whimsy said...

Interesting perspective. Teachers who simply do not enjoy teaching need to rethink their career choice or get a little nudge out the door. There are so many competent, quality teachers out there who are dying to be in the classroom to help educate children and who can do a great job at it.

Teachers who want to retire now but can't also bring up the issue of "bad" teaching or in this case "tired" teaching. It is a shame because their students deserve a teacher who is still enthusiastic about teaching.

Miss. Whimsy's Blog

PrincipalJ said...

You are right on Josh! I was taught that these categories which fit right into your observations:
-Consciously competent-good and know why they're good
-Unconsciously competent- good, but don't really know exactly what makes them good
-Consciously Incompetent- know they're bad and don't really care....it's just a job
-Unconsciously Incompetent-bad and don't know it...their heart is probably in it and are working hard, but have never been given feedback

As principals, it is our job to recognize and give feedback to all of them!

Gerald Aungst said...

I agree with David (there are shades of grey) and that we need to consider every teacher as an individual, just as we do (or should) with students.

That said, I think there's something to the broad categories that Jessica mentions. Connect this with Carol Dweck's work on mindsets and growth, and I think you have a starting place for forward movement. I would suspect that even the "consciously incompetent" group is probably there because they've resigned themselves to what they percieve as the "fact" that they're as good as they're going to get and nothing will change that. Teaching them a growth mindset may help transform them into one of the competent categories.

Gretchen Schultek said...

AMEN! You are so right! I agree. There are 3 types of teachers: Good, Bad, I don't know any better. I can work with 2 of them. The other, I get so frustrated. I currently work for TEACH Charlotte and help get good teachers in our neediest of schools. I know the characteristics that make long-lasting teachers, credible teachers, and influential teachers. I'd like to say I do not let any teacher slip through the cracks that doesn't measure up. However, I might add a 4th category: Lost My Touch. The teachers who have worked so long and exhausted themselves. Collecting a paycheck is their expressway to retirement. They lack the excitement and energy to continue to be great. Those teachers I grieve for. Let's hope more people read this post and allow themselves to move to greater heights instead of the other direction. Thank you for your question to think about our peers. How can we better help them remain moving in an upward motion? How do we contribute to our colleague's success and positive impact on our students? Hmm... great post! I'll be reflecting on this for a while...