Myths of job creation

Nice essay on Five Myths about job creation in the Post recently.  Myth #1 "Surely there's a quick fix."  Ummm, nope.  Everybody needs to get that through their head.  An informative and quick read.

Birthday blogging

I'm 38 today.  I'm quite the rounder-upper, though, so I've already been thinking of myself as 38 for a while.  One of those ages that don't really seem to mean much.  I figured I was already "late 30's" and I've still got a couple years before the milestone 40.  Actually, I felt like 36 was a big deal, as so much pop culture, etc., is supposedly based on the "coveted 18-35 year old demographic."  So, I haven't been coveted by anybody (Kim?) for a few years now.


On Good teaching

I’ve been meaning to write a post for a bit on this really interesting Atlantic article on what makes a good teacher.  It’s based on extensive analysis of the Teach for America program.  As this week I was actually notified that I won the “Outstanding Teacher Award” from NC State’s College of Humanities and Social Science, this seems like a good time to get around to it.  I really don’t want to be bragging, but if I cannot share my pleasure at this with my loyal blog readers, who can I share it with?  Of my professional goals, my first was tenure, which I received a few years ago, but the second has been to receive a teaching award.  As anybody who knows me knows, teaching is hugely important to me and certainly the most personally important aspect of my job as a professor, so it’s very meaningful to be validated in this regard.  Now, I’ve got two remaining professional goals– get my damn book finished and published and make full professor.  Then, I can just hang it up, I suppose.  All that by the way as a long preface for saying that going by the standards of a great teacher in the Atlantic article, I definitely come up short:

First, great teachers tended to set big goals for their students. They were also perpetually looking for ways to improve their effectiveness. For example, when Farr called up teachers who were making remarkable gains and asked to visit their classrooms, he noticed he’d get a similar response from all of them: “They’d say, ‘You’re welcome to come, but I have to warn you—I am in the middle of just blowing up my classroom structure and changing my reading workshop because I think it’s not working as well as it could.’ When you hear that over and over, and you don’t hear that from other teachers, you start to form a hypothesis.” Great teachers, he concluded, constantly reevaluate what they are doing.

Superstar teachers had four other tendencies in common: they avidly recruited students and their families into the process; they maintained focus, ensuring that everything they did contributed to student learning; they planned exhaustively and purposefully—for the next day or the year ahead—by working backward from the desired outcome; and they worked relentlessly, refusing to surrender to the combined menaces of poverty, bureaucracy, and budgetary shortfalls.

Surely, there’s some significant differences between successful college teaching and being successful in Teach for America (upon which the analysis was based), but man do all fall woefully short on all those metrics.  Constantly re-evaluating?  Yes, but I’m certainly not ever making radical changes to my classes.  Planning “exhaustively and purposefully”?  No way.  Working backward from desired outcomes?  Nope.  Oh well.  Yet, I do think I do a pretty solid job of not only entertaining my students (I’ve got that part totally down), but actually educating them.  Ever since David started elementary school, I’ve really intrigued by the subject of teacher quality (shout out here to Kingswood Elementary’s Hollie Johnson, definitely the best I’ve seen), so I found this analysis of the qualities that make the best teachers really interesting.  You ought to read it.  And, if you are interested in the topic and never read Gladwell’s great article comparing identifying good teachers to identifying good potential NFL quarterbacks, it is a must read.

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