Is My Child’s Teacher a Good Teacher?

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Last month, a blogger friend asked me, “How do I know if my child’s teacher is a good teacher? and could you write a post?

Recently I visited  Gold Rush Elementary in Parker, Colorado because my friend, Kristen Hyde teaches there. I wanted to take photos of her phenomenal learning environment. I saw a school who cared more about helping students think and become reflective learners than performing on a test.

I asked Kristen what she thought makes a good teacher. She said, Does the child like school?My main goal is that all my students LOVE to come to school.

Isn’t she a good teacher!?

So, without further ado, here’s my list of how a parent can tell if their child’s teacher is good.

(Drum roll, please.)

The most important qualities which describe a
good, great, exceptional, outstanding teacher:

  • Loves kids.

Doesn’t this seem like a crazy thing to even mention? The best teachers think all their kids are wonderful in some way – from the rule followers to the booger pickers to the differently abled learners, this teacher loves them all. You’ll hear things like, “Oh, that Josh I just adore, he has trouble focusing but what a great kid.” Or “I’m so amazed at the way Amy thinks about things so deeply.”

  • Connects with kids.

This teacher knows her kids – what they like, what they don’t. She or he knows each child’s strengths and weaknesses. She speaks to her students at eye level. She talks with respect to her students. You’ll see a classroom full of students learning, search for the teacher and find she’s on her knees or in a small chair conferring with a student at the student’s eye level. That happened today when I walked into Kristen’s room. It took me a minute to find her because she was kneeling down helping a student. You won’t see a teacher standing over a student talking at the student above his or her eye level.

  • Wants to learn more.

A good teacher is teachable, and always trying to learn and grow as a teacher. This teacher takes classes, attends professional development, reads books on teaching, watches other teachers, and never thinks he’s done learning.

You’ll hear something like this, which I overheard today:

I just applied to for the White Board Training,” said a teacher at Gold Rush to the Building Resource Teacher (BRT). “I don’t know much about it.”

The BRT was shocked. “You use the White Board every day! You use it more than anyone in this school.

I just think I’ve been doing the same thing for five years and I could learn more about it.”

Wow.

  • Knows what’s she’s teaching (curriculum, standards, goals and expectations) and WHY.

I picked up Kristen’s read aloud book by Ann Martin and asked, “Is this any good?

She said, “It’s sad, with lots of description, but my kids really need to build their stamina for this kind of writing and not just the kind of writing in a Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Junie B. Jones.” (This is the WHY! Kristen’s reading this book for a specific learning purpose.)

  • Creates a positive learning environment classroom. (Behavior, Physical Environment)

Behavior is managed with positive rewards (Kristen does lunch in the classroom with her on Friday) and consequences (no lunch with her) plus a school wide behavior plan. Noise is appropriate learning noise and not  chaos with students off-task and misbehaving.

The room shows student learning and group instruction with examples posted on the walls.

  • Assess knowledge and uses the information.

This teacher uses informal and formal assessments to determine what to teach next. He considers each child’s assessment and uses this in considering what to teach or not teach next.

Now it’s your turn. What else describes an exceptional teacher?

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11 Responses

  1. Stephanie Black says:

    Hi, I’m 9 years old and it’s always been my dream to teach. I want to be the type of teacher that kids love. I used this to know what I have to do when I teach. Really good.

  2. Thanks for these helpful insights. I really appreciate all of the different thoughts and ideas that I’ve found here. I too struggled with sending my kids back to school at the beginning of the year. It was helpful for me to read your correspondence with the kindergarten teacher and how you articulated yourself in such a kind and respectful manner. Putting a bookmark in here! I’ll be back often. Thanks!

  3. This is a great list Melissa … and incredibly valuable for parent volunteers who walk into a classroom and ask (like I do) how do they do this? Great teachers make themselves standout without saying a word.

    I would add one thing to the list – and it may be a nuance to your first two points – but great teachers know every kid and educate them individually. My daughter’s first grade teacher handled the class of 22 by herself and could adjust the learning to each child’s needs. In second grade, the teacher treated everyone as a herd so even though they got “second grade work” everyone stayed together regardless of whether it was too challenging or too boring.

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    Hi! I’m Melissa Taylor, mom, writer, & former elementary teacher & literacy trainer. I love sharing good books & fun learning resources.

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