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Posted by Janet R. Macpherson on Feb 8, 2017
I will start with full disclosure, I started my after-college life as a teacher, teaching students with special needs for six years. I have known many teachers throughout the years. My spouse is a teacher. My current work allows me to work with district administrators and teachers. Teaching is one of the most complex and challenging professions. For the most part, individuals who can’t stand the heat will leave the profession pretty quickly, ensuring that those who make a career of teaching do so because they believe teaching is a calling. I am one who couldn't stand the heat, and partly due to that experience, I believe teachers are the best thing since sliced bread, in an educational sense.
There are a lot of reasons why teachers make a difference and really matter to the success of students. Teachers have been shown to have two to three times the impact on student achievement than other school factors. Teachers are directly involved in student motivation and engagement, not only by providing exciting, relevant materials, but also by making students feel welcome, valued, and safe in the classroom.
Here’s what's interesting. It is one thing to feel something is true, but quite another to have the data to back up that feeling. Oddly enough, technology has allowed me to verify my feeling that teachers really do matter. I work for a company that provides curricula to school districts designed to help struggling students learn to read, write, and do math. For a number of years, I had to be satisfied with the belief students were receiving sufficient instruction because I had no way of knowing what was actually happening in the classrooms where our curricula were being used.
However, we now have actual data to validate the impact of the teacher. One of our reading intervention program for adolescents is a blended solution that allows me to “see” the amount of instruction students actually receive. This information, combined with grade-level outcome measures, validates one of those “duh” moments: sufficient pacing and lesson coverage, facilitated by the teacher, have a positive effect on results. I now know my feeling was correct because I have the data to prove it!
So how do teachers impact a student's success and academic experience? Teachers are a) responsible for setting up a classroom environment where students feel safe and able to learn, b) must prepare for each day to ensure lessons go smoothly and are completed, and c) make students feel like they can accomplish anything, especially important for struggling students.
While the teachers do their part, a good program provides interesting and relevant material in an organized way, allowing the teacher to teach rather than having to find or create the next lesson.
Teachers really matter because they are the facilitators of student learning. Just putting any curriculum into a classroom isn’t enough. It has to be used. And, I can prove that fact with the help of technology!
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