What is good teaching?

"You will bring into your life whatever it is that you have the most clarity about. The trouble is, most people have a great deal of clarity about what it is they don't want." —Susan Scott (Photo: Dennis Sparks)

Few things are more important than leaders’ clarity regarding good teaching—both what it is and how it can be developed. I offer the ideas below from recent articles and their links to stimulate your thinking and to encourage you to cultivate your own proverb-like clarity in this important area.

From the Washington Post:

“Dianne Pors found it hard to believe what she was seeing when she took her first job in 1975 as a ninth grade math teacher at Yerba Buena High School in the East Side Union High School district of San Jose. The school district seemed to be trying to remove that messy but essential element of math education, teaching, from her class. Her students would come to class each day, take a quick quiz and then be handed a worksheet. That would be the extent of her professional involvement.”

From Newsweek:

“Much of the ability to teach is innate—an ability to inspire young minds as well as control unruly classrooms that some people instinctively possess (and some people definitely do not). Teaching can be taught, to some degree, but not the way many graduate schools of education do it, with a lot of insipid or marginally relevant theorizing and pedagogy.”

From the New York Times:

“When Doug Lemov conducted his own search for those magical ingredients, he noticed something about most successful teachers that he hadn’t expected to find: what looked like natural-born genius was often deliberate technique in disguise. “Stand still when you’re giving directions,” a teacher at a Boston school told him. In other words, don’t do two things at once. Lemov tried it, and suddenly, he had to ask students to take out their homework only once.”

From AnnArbor.com:

“I’m not really sure which of these arguments I agree with. I do think some folks just have a natural talent for teaching (or coaching) and could do a good job anywhere regardless of circumstances. , , , On the other hand, I also think certain classroom management techniques I learned in my own teacher-training have been crucial to my evolution as a teacher. I don’t think I’m naturally adept at standing in front of a roomful of students and getting them to do what I want. Had I not learned some tricks-of-the-trade early on, I think I’d have been pretty lost.”


2 Responses to “What is good teaching?”


  1. 1 Shirley A. Baker March 13, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    I was a successful teacher. A former student and I still are in touch with each other. He was 17 when first in my Spanish class..he is now 60. He and I say that all teachers need acting classes…schtick to capture and keep the now distracted students’ attention and a thorough knowledge of the subject matter. If the teacher is in control of often asked questions about language, then he or she is confident in a quick explanation immediately followed by examples and usage.

    Each year in the month of August, I would map out what I wanted the students to do…what behavior did I expect them to have at the end of the year…careful lesson plans accompanied by a huge variety of activities that were intersting to me!! If something bored me in a text(which I rarely used) then I knew it would bore the students. Fun activities with the language were always included…so that the students felt as though they were in an exclusive club in which they could prove that they were learning something. There was minimal dead air in my classes. There was not staying on an activity that was getting zero feedback and participation…this is why, I had a script on a podium that I could refer to as I moved about….engaging the students…no one dared to sleep, draw on desks, or just zone out…it would be too embarrassing. My AP classes all made nothing but 4s and 5s…some are fluent to this day…years after my class ended for them.

    It is an art to which time must be paid. If a person is lazy or totally devoted to having a life full of not caring about anything but a paycheck…of course there will be no success.

    I had a bag of tricks always at the ready. Too bad I couldn’t have taught a methods class of tricks and not boring theory that would put a woodpecker into a coma.

    Shirley A. Baker…arrogant and skilled.


  1. 1 Clarify your views on what’s required to become a good teacher « Leading for Results—Dennis Sparks' Blog Trackback on May 19, 2010 at 4:50 am

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