Does Your Child's Teacher Make a Difference

Written By: Mary M. Alward
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School improvement is always in the news. Teachers demand smaller class sizes. The government calls for standardized testing. Researches want changes in curriculum and parents are confused as to what will enhance their child's learning abilities.

In recent years, school boards have argued that family culture, background, wealth and education have an effect on a child's ability to learn. However, more recent analysis of the educational system has shown that teacher quality is the most dominant factor on a child's ability to learn.

A large study on math education in Australia found that in 90% of western countries, math scores depended wholly on classroom instruction. Student's scores varied approximately 55% in different classroom settings. The scores of schools varied only 15%. This pointed out that match achievement by students depended greatly on their teacher and his/her teaching skills. Where the student attended school and his family background was not a factor in learning.

Researchers in New Brunswick, Canada, studied the effects of emotions and health on students in middle school. The students filled out a questionnaire that defined the quality of education that they received. The results were stunning. The students indicated that it was not the school district they attended, or the school itself, but the teacher's skills that defined their quality of education.

If you have more than one child who has attended the same school, you are probably aware that a child's teacher has a great impact on the quality of education that he receives. Teachers who have strong teaching skills can teach children more readily than those whose skills are weak. What makes a superb teacher? You would think experience would have a large bearing on a teacher's ability to help her students learn. However, the key to teacher training is what sets certain teacher's apart from their colleagues.

Research has proven that teachers who enrolled in high quality reading programs were able to teach children vital reading skills that allowed them to pass standardized tests with flying colors. The students with a skilled teacher received much higher grades than students who were taught by teachers with years of experience. Exemplary teachers promoted a positive learning environment and possessed superior instructional skills. These teachers engaged students in the learning process, kept them interested in what they were learning and provided continuous and extremely intensive instruction. They were also very explicit when giving instructions to their students. They allowed students to approach and interact with them, ask questions and specify that they didn't understand. They encouraged their students to work in groups and then monitored and supported them in the learning process. It was also found that the teacher's attitude toward life and their beliefs had a huge impact on student learning.

Teachers who believe they make a difference in their student's lives and who are supported by the school principal, as well as the community, are more motivated. They are encouraged by the support to teach children the skills they need to become well educated. These are the teachers who possess superior teaching skills.

A teacher is not teaching unless his/her students are learning. Students and good teachers all realize this. When your child comes home from school excited about his learning experience that day, he has a quality teacher who possesses superior teaching skills. On the other hand, if he comes home and you ask him what he learned and he shrugs his shoulders indifferently, something is wrong. His teacher's teaching skills are definitely weak. It is a teacher's job to keep his/her students excited and positive toward learning and school.

It is very easy to identify a teacher with superior teaching skills. To identify a school where every teacher possesses these skills is a different matter. Every educational system should be promoting superior teaching methods and superior teachers and hiring only teachers who possess superior teaching skills. This includes testing the teachers who apply, nurturing them and assisting them in honing the skills that it takes to be an exemplary teacher.

School boards and school administrators should be ensuring that a teacher's transition into a classroom is pleasant and safe. Teachers need to be supported in much the same way that they support their students. Every administrator and board within the educational system needs to support teachers through a well-developed system. No teacher should be allowed to fall through the cracks, just as no student should be allowed to fall behind with his education. Teachers need mentors whom they can rely on for advice and then reflect on that advice in order to make positive decisions for their students.

Yes, a teacher has a big influence on your child's life and all parents need to learn to recognize whether or not their child's teacher is meeting his educational needs. To do so, a teacher needs to possess superior teaching skills. Teachers who care, who have a desire to make a difference and who possess a positive attitude and superior teaching skills can make a big difference in your child's future.

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