Educator Ellie Herman decided to stop teaching one day and spent a year traveling to classrooms and learning from other teachers. Since then she has written a number of articles exploring what she learned during that year. In a recent post, Herman talks about the “F-bomb” of teaching in an article on WashingtonPost.com.
“Warning: I am about to drop the F-bomb,” she said. “No, not the one you’re probably thinking of. I am going to drop an even more fearsome F-bomb, a word so noxious and incendiary that I did not even want to use it in the title of this post. That word is ‘faith.'”
Herman said she isn’t referring to a “religious faith.”
“I have no idea whether the teachers I’m observing identify with any religion at all,” she said. “For all I know, they’re all die-hard Satanists, though that does seem kind of unlikely. [But if it’s true, please let me know immediately. There’s definitely a bestseller there, along with a blockbuster movie, a killer app and a ton of smoking-hot merchandise.]”
Herman said that “based on four months of meticulous observation-based research, I’ve come to the conclusion that faith is the state of being I see underlying the five common practices I’ve observed in all the teachers I’m following. [By “common practices” I do not mean “best practices,” a terms that I find annoying because of its science-iness. I mean, unless you use the more accurate term ‘best practices at inducing growth in test scores even though those scores do not correlate with any meaningful measure of education like college graduation rates, employment or growth in fluid intelligence.’ But not surprisingly, nobody ever uses that term.]”
Herman then highlights five practices she has observed in great teachers. The first one is that “great teachers listen to their students.”
“Listening is more than just sitting around hearing about their students’ problems, though many times these teachers do that,” she said. “What I mean is that instead of coming in with a pre-packaged educational agenda, great teachers first listen closely to the educational and socio-emotional needs of their students. This listening can take the form of assessment tests, but also involves a deep awareness of and respect for the lives and home cultures of their students, whether they are at-risk students in a very low-income community or privileged students at an elite private school. Great teachers know and understand the community in which they teach, and their teaching is a response to the needs of that community.”