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How Teaching Works (and How to Teach It to Everyone)

by Elizabeth Green

Pub Date: Aug. 4th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-393-08159-6
Publisher: Norton

Ideas from a former principal on what makes for an exceptional teacher.

Accountability and autonomy are the two guiding lights for prescribing changes in our schools, and as Green notes early on in this book, the two principles are often at loggerheads. Accountability proponents believe in leveraging the power of data to study which teachers’ students are meeting or exceeding goals; opponents claim that it stultifies educators, diminishing the profession, and ineffectively measuring teacher and student “success.” Autonomy proponents believe that if you elevate the profession and let the teachers steer their ships, the trust, freedom and respect will enable them to do their very best. Green gives both of these views credence but goes further to suggest that the reverence surrounding the best teachers is misguided, in that it elevates the “natural born educator” mythos that suggests an inborn talent. Green deflates the “I could never do what they do” aura of the best teachers, but in a good way. In extensive conversations and observations that uncover the approaches that the best educators share, she distills how they apply those approaches in similar ways despite differences in extraversion/introversion, humorous/serious teaching approaches, and flexible/rigid standards. Green goes deeper than bromides about student engagement and motivation, digging into data about student success as well as examining the means used to collect the data. She also chronicles her visits with professionals at multiple levels (administrative, support, frontline teachers) through various successes and failures, gleaning wisdom from both—just as the best teachers would have their students do.

A powerful, rational guidebook to creating genuinely effective education, written in a manner useful not just for schoolteachers, but everyone involved in the care of children.