“If you have a choice between a great teacher and a smaller class, go for a great teacher” 10 steps to greatness

Education policy adviser to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Andreas Schleicher said, “too much money had been spent reducing class sizes, instead of boosting teacher performance”.

Northern Beaches Christian School, is becoming known as one of the world’s most innovative schools. Each week we host individuals and groups from across Australia and around the world who come to see the spaces, the students at work and learn from our journey. Our teachers are critical to successful learning, and the principal, Stephen Harris, made the decision quite a while ago, to invest in teacher PD, through ongoing weekly professional learning, and quarterly immersive whole staff PD.

To answer the question ‘What makes a great teacher?’ I only need to look around the school to be inspired.

So, what are some of the necessary elements of a great teacher?

1. Love kids and believe the best for them.  photo (35)

Relationships matter above everything. At TED Talk Education, Rita Pierson*, in her talk Every Kid needs a Champion said, “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like”. And the corollary is that they like people who like them.

2. Embrace your purpose.

There is an old tale about two men building a wall. When asked “what are you doing?”, the first replied, “Building a wall”, while the second answered, “Making a home for a family.” Effective education is centred on the student and their future, not just ploughing through content.

3. Read the times.

Look around. We live in a visual, digital and interconnected world, where visible-learning, video and audio are legitimate ways of showing deep learning. Yet so many educators still hold to the written word as being the true, and perhaps only, reflection of rigour.

4. Anticipate the future.

The change is rapid, learn from your students and start to predict. Although there is uncertainty, teachers need to step out into the unknown. Three years ago, did you see what tablet technology could bring to education?

5. Understand your value

Once you knew the content to be taught, and you were the expert in the students’ eyes. Today we can’t possibly hold all the information available and your students can access the world’s experts. Reinvent your unique contribution.

6. Work together

The world is collaborative and connected, yet many classrooms remain a lonely place where the teaching is a one-to-many activity, which may be repeated in each classroom down the corridor. Team work bring richness to the process.

7. Get comfortable with vulnerability

Success as a team can only be achieved through being real and open with one another, rather than being defensive about (professional) territory. It is very rewarding and sometimes messy.

8. Pursue excellence

Excellence means doing the very best with what is in your hand – it doesn’t mean perfectionism. It means continually making small improvements and not getting comfortable, ever (well, at least not for too long).

9. Get connected

The internet and the world of social media is the world of your students. Learn from them. Use Twitter as your professional learning network, get connected in person with other passionate educators.

10. Keep learning and doing.

I’ve heard it said that students learn their teacher, before they learn the subject. If you are a passionate learner, curious and engaged, imagine what you can pass on to your students.


*In researching this piece I was saddened to read that Ms Pierson passed away in June 2013

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