I was chosen this week to be the Teacher of the Year for my school. While I appreciate the honor and sincerely feel humbled at being recognized in this way by my peers, I don’t know why they chose me.
Yes, I am a popular teacher. I connect with students on a personal level, and I crack jokes as often as I can. And, yes, I conduct weekly “Techie Thursday” micro-sessions of staff development without any compensation. But, does that make me an excellent teacher?
I argue that the only way to know who is the best representative of teaching excellence in our school is to observe our fellow educators in their practice. We need to get into each other’s classrooms and watch what happens there. This would benefit all of us in so many ways that go beyond Teacher of the Year. We can learn so much about what is effective (and what’s not) by seeing it done.
Why doesn’t this happen already? The reasons are varied. Logistically, it can be nearly impossible to find “free time” to go into another teacher’s classroom, what with team meetings, grade-level meetings, departmental meetings, professional learning community meetings, planning, and grading. Many teachers, though, have more personal reasons. I find that many of my colleagues believe that they deserve some sort of professional privacy. They’re wrong. If we want our vocation to be given the respect that it deserves, we need to behave like other professionals. Doctors, for example, learn from experienced physicians and surgeons through observation and critical review of their own practice. We could do well to follow suit.