Measuring teacher quality and adding value

What makes a good teacher?  I remember as a kid looking forward to having this teacher or dreading that one.  I remember sitting in a high school math class bored beyond belief and writing down the words to Another Brick in the Wall so I looked like I was taking notes but could bask in the irony of the subversion.  I estimate that 60% of my elementary teachers were “good teachers” and the number just went down from there until my freshman year in college. What was my methodology?

Let me reveal my methodology by comparing my first and second grade teachers.

 

My first grade teacher saw me as an instigator at nap time (I actually got “needs improvement” on my report card for nap time) and I recall having to stand in the trashcan because the other corners were full of kids I had caused to act out some how.  My second grade teacher saw me as a leader and gave me very important jobs to do like making sure the kick ball came in from recess and stocking the chalk tray.

 

My first grade teacher made wrong assumptions about me and, because I am verbal assumed I was a reader.  I was placed in the high reading group when I should have been in the middle or low one.  I developed all sorts of strategies for not showing my inabilities to read like the other kids and still don’t think of myself as a reader.  My second grade teacher asked what we were all interested in and the very next day had stacks and stacks of books all around the room.  She told us where our stack was and that we should pick out books from the stack that we think are just a little too easy and just a little too hard.  We took the easy ones home to keep until we finished them (no check out and return date like the library) and she listened to each of us read the ones that were a little too hard.  She then paired us up as reading buddies.  We changed around every now and then as she constantly moved through the room listening to us read and asking us questions.

 

My first grade teacher gave up helping me improve my handwriting.  It turns out she had no standards for performance.  Changing out her bulletin board was more important than figuring out that I am somewhat ambidextrous and should have probably tried writing with my left hand.  When I am writing something for an elementary kid to read, I do it with my left hand. It’s more time consuming but more legible.  I figured that out whenI became an aunt.  My second grade teacher had high standards and was not someone I wanted to disappoint.  When I learned I was going to have her for second grade, I began studying the encyclopedia and taking notes in a college ruled spiral notebook.  No lie.

 

Other than nap time and hand writing, I don’t remember much from first grade except that we had spelling tests each week.  I don’t think my first grade teacher was still at the school the next year and I am certain she was not there when my younger brother was in first grade.

 

I remember my second grade teacher reading books to us and telling us stories.  I remember doing science experiments and having to change our teams in kick ball to make sure everyone had a chance to play with everyone.
What would Charlotte Danielson say about these two teachers?  My second grade teacher was definitely better at “Domain 1: Planning and Preparation”.  She also nailed Danielson’s other three domains – The Classroom Environment, Instruction, and Professional Responsibilities.

 

Would you get the same story if you asked another student who had both teachers, even in the same year?  Other students may have felt like Mrs. Milton (second grade) was too terse or spent too much time reading to kids.  Other students may have liked the leveled reading groups in first grade.  There are different things different kids like and don’t like, no doubt.

 

What about “teacher quality” and “value added” can be objective and what is inherently subjective?  Did both of these teachers add value to my life or not?

 

I am going to share this blog post with a media specialist in my school division who was in my first and second grade classes.  Really.  I am going to ask her to respond in a comment to this post, indicating whether or not she has any of the same memories and what she thinks now some 39ish years later.  Will we agree on “teacher quality”? How will she describe the “value added”?  We’ll see!

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