How To Be A Great Teacher According to 12 Great Teachers -- THE TEACHERS EDITION -- February 4, 2016

The Teachers Edition

What Teachers Are Talking About This Week

February 4, 2016  |  Sign up to receive The Teachers Edition.

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Obama Calls for More K-12 Computer Science Courses

Last weekend, President Obama announced the Computer Science for All Initiative, a plan to give all students across the country the chance to learn computer science in school. "In the new economy, computer science isn’t an optional skill — it’s a basic skill, right along with the three 'Rs,'" he said. Last week, the White House honored nine Champions for Change for their work in computer science education and ED screened Code Girl, a new documentary that follows participants in the 2015 Technovation challenge, a worldwide competition that encourages girls to develop their own apps and pursue technology entrepreneurship. Learn more here 

Andrea Chaves photo


New York City Spanish teacher Andrea Chaves did not know anything about computer science when she brought a proposal to her principal about how to integrate it into her school. A few years later, she was honored by the White House as a Champion for Change, and the TechCrew she started at her school is growing in popularity. Read about how the students at her all-girls school are imagining new possibilities for themselves as a result of their computer science experiences.

King Lays Out Roadmap for How States Should Reduce Tests

Earlier this week, Acting Secretary John King continued to make the case for reducing the amount of time American students spend on testing. In a short video on YouTube and a letter to chief state school officers, King clarified that good assessments are critical for learning, but that poorly constructed assessments take away from learning time and aren't useful to parents and educators. 

Let's Stop Talking About Teachers As If We're Missionaries

Every teacher has heard it in response to the question, "What do you do for a living?" It sounds something like, "Oh wow, thank you for doing that!" But talking about teachers like we're missionaries reflects a subtle bias, according to writer Amanda Ripley. She cites the common refrain, "Are you going to be a principal?" as evidence that people generally misunderstand the intellectual challenge of teaching: "Do people ask a pediatrician why she isn't gunning to be a hospital chief?" she writes (Washingtonian). 

circle classrooms

Futuristic Classrooms Rethink Space

Districts are looking to rethink the desks-facing-the-front configuration of lots of American classrooms in some interesting ways, according to a recent District Administration magazine article. The new innovations throw away traditional classrooms in favor of Learning Lounges and Idea Labs, where the furniture is flexible, the walls are bright, and collaboration happens much more easily. 


After Their Teacher Went Into Space, Her Students Went Into Teaching

Thirty years after Concord (N.H.) High School watched social studies teacher Christa McAuliffe take off aboard space shuttle Challenger, a number of them have gone into teaching. One, an elementary school teacher in Virginia, says she sometimes asks herself "What would Christa do?" as she writes her lesson plans (McCormack, Associated Press). 

11-Year-Old Starts Collection For #1000blackgirl Books

Philadelphia 11-year-old Marley Dias was "sick of reading books about white boys and dogs" in school, so she decided to collect 1,000 books where black girls are the main characters. Her story went viral last week. She plans to bring the 1,000 books to a school in Jamaica and to create a resource guide that compiles the book titles, authors, and age groups (Labouvier, Elle). 


How to Be a Great Teacher, According to 12 Great Teachers

NPR has been profiling great teachers at all kinds of schools around the world as part of their 50 Great Teachers project. Now, they synthesized 12 interviews with top teachers to offer 12 necessities for being a great teacher. Among them:

  • Assume a secret identity
  • Be a teacher, not a friend
  • Recognize it takes vulnerability to learn

The Indiana Principal Who Died Saving Her Students' Lives


In another example of educators' selflessness, Indianapolis elementary school principal Susan Jordan dove in front of a moving school bus to save the lives of several of her students who were in the bus's path. She died in the process. The 22-year veteran principal made it a point to get to know every student and bring out the best in each, said one teacher (Coyne, Associated Press).

Per-Pupil Spending in U.S. Ranges by As Much As $15,000

Per-pupil spending in this country ranges widely: from as little as $6,432 per student in Utah to as much as $20,530 in Washington, D.C. Many states dropped their per-pupil spending this year. The biggest spenders tend to be clustered in the Northeast, whereas the Southeast and West tend to spend the least. See how your state compares here (Brown, Washington Post).

Summer's art work

Artist Weighs Going To College, Working To Support Her Family

In this short documentary, a talented teenager in the Mojave Desert is torn between ​​​her goal of attending art school and wanting to help support her familyKeith Fulton and Lou Pepe have collaborated for over 20 years on documentary and fiction films, and in this one, we see a school that may not be able to fix a student’s home life, but "it can offer students acknowledgment, advice, life skills, and most important, empathy. In Summer’s case, it at least gave her a choice" (New York Times).


The @EdTechTeam is starting a weekly book club to discuss each section of the National Education Technology Plan. Join the discussion on Twitter using #NETP16. This week, we heard:

  • "The best resource we can give teachers is time with each other. Not a matter of finding it, it's a matter of making it." -- Kyle Pace, Instructional Technology Specialist, Missouri 
  • "It's important to support teachers and administrators who want to take chances. Inertia is a real force." -- Al Rowell, Teacher, Georgia
  • "Passive versus active use [of technology]. Really need to push for creation and not consumption." -- Brandi Miller, Teacher, California

Join next Tuesday night's Twitter chat on leadership and technology (7 pm EST, 4 pm CST) and you might find your voice here. 

Introverted Teachers Are Burning Out: What We Can Do

Is all the emphasis on collaboration, group work, and professional learning communities causing introverted teachers to burn out? Some suggest that introverted teachers are struggling with "collaborative overload," which eliminates the possibility of teachers having time to recharge in the way they might need (Godsey, Atlantic). Former teacher John Spencer has ideas for how we could reinvent school to support introverted teachers.

teach to lead

The list of Teach to Lead supporter organizations has reached 115 with the addition of Education Evolving, the Kenan Fellows Program for Curriculum and Leadership DevelopmentThe Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement, and National Council for the Social Studies  

school councselor of the year

Ariz. Counselor Named 2016 School Counselor of the Year

As part of her Reach Higher initiative, First Lady Michelle Obama hosted the 2nd Annual School Counselors of the Year in the East Room of the White House. Katherine Pastor, a school counselor at Flagstaff High School (Flagstaff, Ariz.) was honored for her passion for the profession and unyielding integrity that make her an indispensable asset to her students, her school and her community.

Resources to Use

What We Heard from Educators This Week


5. "Teachers must assume the best in their students but administrators must do the same with the teachers" (Teacher, Virginia).
4. Having a voice in educational decisions that involve my students and my profession will make me feel empowered" (Teacher, Maine).
3. In reference to student teaching arrangements: “We can’t practice on children….they have one chance to go through 5th grade” (Teacher, New York).
2. “Teacher prep doesn’t end on the day you get your job” (Teacher, Connecticut).
1. “We spend too much time on nomenclature instead of on actual teaching and figuring out how to change the life of every kid." (Teacher, New York).