What Makes a Great Teacher?

atkins-bookshelf-educationLast year, Katrina Fried, published the award-winning Everyday Heroes: 50 American Changing the World One Nonprofit at a Time. This year she turned her focus to the heroes in the front lines of the classroom: teachers. Her new book, American Teacher: Heroes in the Classroom, opens with the the famous William Butler Yeats quotation about education: “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Indeed, as every great teacher knows, being an educator requires passion; moreover, teaching is just a profession — it is a calling. Fried interviewed and photographed 50 exceptional teachers and their students throughout the country. There is an enormous diversity in the teachers she interviewed —  in terms of experience (2-52 years), socioeconomic conditions (low-income to affluent communities), and type of administration (public and charter schools). Despite their differences, these teachers all had one thing in common: students that were happy, learning and flourishing. In interviews with hundreds of teachers, Fried, also recognized common effective pedagogical strategies. Bookshelf honors great teachers in America and around the world who have dedicated their lives, many times making enormous sacrifices, to shape future generations by presenting Fried’s “12 Rules for Being a True Classroom Hero”; may they inspire and sustain the world’s greatest heroes:

1. Rules are made to be broken.
2. All for one, and one for all.
3. Bring your passions into the classroom.
4. Never teach to the test.
5. Keep it real.
6. There is no such thing as an un-teachable child.
7. Necessity is the mother of all invention.
8. Produce good people, not just good students.
9. The future is now.
10. Be the person you want your students to become.
11. You cannot do it alone.
12. Be a student of your students.

Read related posts: Best Books for Graduates
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What Should You Teach Your Kids Before They Leave Home?

For further reading: American Teacher: Heroes in the Classroom by Katrina Fried, Welcome Books (2013)

Wise Words Endure

atkins-bookshelf-quotationsColors fade, temples crumble, empires fall, but wise words endure.

Edward Thorndike (1874-1949) American psychologist whose extensive research on behaviorism and the learning process with animals and humans, led to the theory of connectionism, forming the foundation of modern educational psychology. He developed Thorndike’s Theory of Learning that states that all learning is incremental, learning occurs automatically, and that all animals learn the same way. His Law of Effect states that learning that is followed by reward will be strengthened while learning followed by punishment will be weakened. He was an eloquent champion of active learning — letting children learn on their own as opposed to receiving instructions.

Read related post: William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize Speech

Passionate Curiosity

The important thing is not to stop questioning; curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when contemplating the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of the mystery every day. The important thing is not to stop questioning; never lose a holy curiosity.

Albert Einstein, in an interview with William Miller, Life magazine, May 2, 1955.