Malcolm Gladwell examines the differences between good and bad teachers and discovers that the only predictor of success in teaching is the actual teaching. He says that to improve American education, we must radically change how we find and train teachers, opening the door wide and evaluating ongoing real-world performance in the classroom. He claims that current hiring, salary structures, and tenure tracks must be altered to be similar to the financial industry.
What I find strange about this article is that, while discussing the way teachers should be chosen, it doesn’t actually ever discuss how teachers are currently selected. The ultimate thesis (unless I am misreading the article) is that there are observable things an effective teacher does when actually teaching. This is why the interview process for most teaching jobs currently involves a “model lesson” in which a prospective teacher (being considered for a job) takes over an actual class for a period and teaches something while being observed by the principal or interview committee. Of course this is not completely normal conditions, (kids misbehave less with the principal in the room) but it is better than having students sacrifice an entire year stuck with a teacher who is “probationary” or “being tried out.” Even as a teacher, I strongly agree that tenure policies need to be altered, but some credit should be given to the fact that some of what the article suggests as revolutionary is already in common practice.
I also was surprised he did not mention that factor in hiring. I knew that Teach for America does something similar for their interview process (although not in front of actual students) and assumed a similar process was in place for “real” teaching jobs.
That said, there may be more reliable techniques than one sample/model lesson in one observed classroom for judging technique.
The subject deserved a longer and more well-researched article, but that seems to be a frequent problem with Malcolm Gladwell pieces.
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