Necessities for Teachers' Success

February 23, 2015 by Guest Faculty Bloggers

By Alex Bogel, Academic Dean

In her posting, "What Does Every Teacher Need To Be Successful," Starr Sackstein invited other teachers to consider the question and come up with their own list of ten items. Alex Bogel, Academic Dean, is among Stoneleigh-Burnham faculty members who are taking up the challenge.

  1. Support. Teachers need to know that their supervisors (Department Chairs, Administrators, Trustees/School Boards) wake up every day because teaching and learning is their top priority. Teachers need to know that they are safe to try and fail, to explore, to grow, and to challenge their students.

  2. Faith in our students. We must be constantly attuned to the transcendent moment of understanding—the arrival of insight, discovery, breakthrough. These moments are transformative for students, but to make them so we must recognize and celebrate them, however small, at whatever level.

  3. Share ownership of the process. Assessment design, paths of inquiry, applications of knowledge: students must be a part of all of these decisions. We are charged with their education; if they are to invest in learning, it must be theirs to create.

  4. Stay Nimble. Lessons fail. Moods change. Understanding comes in fits and starts. It snows. New ideas emerge. We begin with daily goals and plans—as we should—but we must keep the long view. If we remain flexible in the teaching moment, we vastly increase students’ chances of internalizing and solidifying skills over the long haul.

  5. Know the person. However wonderful my class may be, it will never be the most important part of a student’s life. My investment in the student’s learning must begin with visible, active caring about who she is. How does she learn, yes, but also how is she invested, what is she facing, what does she need and how can I help?

  6. Concrete, shared goals, methods, and markers. Students and teachers need to know and agree on why they are together and towards what they are working. My goal is to make myself obsolete—for students to master the skills they need to become powerful independent analysts of knowledge. To achieve this, they need to understand the goals, the path by which they may achieve them, and the standards by which to measure their mastery. We continually reexamine these markers.

  7. Respect. Mutual respect, based on honesty and belief in best intentions, must underpin the work we do together. I can only ask my students to trust me if I consistently show them respect. We can disagree—even passionately—but it must be safe to do so.

  8. Questioning. At the heart of all learning and exploration is the question why? My students and I must be guided by that question and must always be allowed to ask it.

  9. Clear Purpose. If every inquiry, every pedagogical choice, every curricular decision, every administrative decision is primarily guided by one question, students and their teachers can succeed: what is of the greatest benefit to our students? Everything else comes second.

  10. Time to read. During the winter of my first year teaching, a conference speaker told us, “find time every day to read something for pleasure.” Five months in to my teaching career, I hadn’t yet picked my head up long enough to realize I hadn’t read for pleasure since the year began. I haven’t found that time every day since, but I’m batting over .500 and it’s made a marked difference in my happiness. And that’s the real point: you must find time for you. It’s easy to place that last on the list (notice I didn’t think of it until #10), but without giving ourselves support we struggle to inspire others.


Written by Guest Faculty Bloggers

Occasionally we feature guest contributions from members of our faculty. Their voices provide an exclusive view into the classrooms, halls, lounges, and residence halls that make Stoneleigh-Burnham School such a great place to live, work, and study. To find blogs exclusively from our faculty members, use “The Faculty Perspective” category.

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Filed Under: On Education