Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Raise Your Hand if You're a Teacher

A recent study conducted by researchers at Florida State University's Center for Reading Research evaluated the oral literacy of more than 800 pairs of racially and ethnically diverse twins in first and second grade classrooms across the state. The study was designed to determine "the importance of teacher quality as a specific school environmental influence on reading achievement."

The use of twins allowed researchers to eliminate such factors as genetics or home environment that might affect a student's academic growth, and to assess more accurately a teacher's influence on students' natural abilities. The study found that...

..."the magnitude of genetic variance associated with twins’ oral reading fluency increased as the quality of their teacher increased. In circumstances where the teachers are all excellent, the variability in student reading achievement may appear to be largely due to genetics. However, poor teaching impedes the ability of children to reach their potential."

In other words, students in classrooms with excellent teachers did better in reading than their twin siblings who had less accomplished teachers. And students with excellent teachers were more likely than students with less effective teachers to reach their full potential -- whatever their genetics determined that potential to be. So...the better the teacher, the better the teaching.

Raise your hand if you're surprised at those results. No one? I thought not. There are no surprises in this study for those of us who have ever taught in a classroom -- or had a child in school.

Raise your hand if you can't tell the difference between an excellent teacher and a teacher who's just taking up space at the front of the classroom. Do I see a hand there in the back? No? Sorry! Someone's just stretching. The fact is, excellent teachers just aren't that hard to spot, are they? We all know who they are.

Now, raise your hand if you're an excellent teacher. Don't be shy. Raise it high and keep it up there, and while it's up there, reach over and give yourself a pat on the back. You're making a difference -- and isn't that why you became a teacher in the first place?

May 3-7 is Teacher Appreciation Week. Take yourself out to lunch. You deserve it!

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