5 contradictions that reveal essential principles of teaching, learning, and relationships


Dennis Sparks1. While hope is essential, it is not a strategy. Hope must be supported by stretching goals, robust plans, professional learning, and strong teamwork.

2. While goals cannot be accomplished without activity, it is easy to confuse activity with accomplishment.

3. While the quality of teaching determines the quality of learning, it is the quality of leadership that determines the quality of teaching across the school and the school system.

4. While professional learning can occur by attending lectures, reading books, participating in social/learning networks, and other individual activities, it is ultimately the quality of school-focused learning and teamwork among teachers with common responsibilities that will determine the quality of teaching and learning across the school.

5. While teachers’ content knowledge and instructional skills are important, another essential but often overlooked attribute of good teaching is the quality of relationships teachers have with their students, particularly those who most require the best teaching to be successful in life.

4 Responses to “5 contradictions that reveal essential principles of teaching, learning, and relationships”

  1. 1 carla matos September 3, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    I particularly like #5 and how relationships is the key for success for some students. There are so many more needy students now who thrive on the relationship they have with their teacher. They are the ones who will do anything for their teacher including working to the best of their ability. As adults, aren’t we more inclined to work harder for people we like and with whom we have a positive relationship?

    • 2 Dennis Sparks September 3, 2013 at 5:59 pm

      Exactly! Well said, Carla.

    • 3 Lisa September 8, 2013 at 10:30 am

      Agree with #5 being important. Early on in my career, a wise mentor told me to remember I taught kids first and content second. She said “You won’t ever get to the content, unless you have a relationship with those kids.” Any time I got too focused on the stuff and not the people, I was reminded she was right!

      • 4 Dennis Sparks September 8, 2013 at 10:45 am

        A wise mentor indeed, Lisa! I wish that all of us could be so fortunate… I appreciate your comment, as I’m sure will other readers.

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