Sunday, December 14, 2008

Most Likely to Succeed

by Malcolm Gladwell
In this article, Gladwell talks about a topic that is important to me - how to spot a good teacher. As there is more talk in the US about merit pay, and rewarding teachers financially for their students' success (or conversely, pushing out poor teachers), there must be more discussion on what a successful teacher actually looks like. Test scores alone can not be the deciding factor, as that places way too much value on the concepts tested, and not enough on the soft skills that are also essential in an exemplary classroom.

Gladwell spends much of the article discussing how a scout for the NFL can not judge the likelihood for success of a college-level quarterback in the major leagues, as there is little commonality of the skill set needed at each level. He also talks about the apprenticeship approach taken by a financial institution in selecting its financial advisors. This model, whereby you hire four with the plan to keep one, is what Gladwell suggests might be needed in teaching, although he conceeds that budgets and unions would never allow for it.

What is interesting to me is the way in which quality teachers are spoken of. Every example given deals with direct classroom instruction, which is really only a part of the job, as teachers are required to spend more and more time creating meaningless anacronym-ized documents to chart student progress, instead of being able to actually just teach.

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