Support excellence, thank a teacher

Individuals can have a powerful effect on the quality of teaching in our public schools.

We can’t give educators the skills they need to be effective, but we can help motivate them to be their best. When we pay attention to their work, and let them know how valuable they are, it makes a difference. When they do well, tell them! It’s as easy as that.

The Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District has an array of strategies to develop its teachers. But according to educational psychologist Christine Emmons, from the Yale University School of Medicine’s Child Student Center, they need us, too.

In the April 6 edition of Education Week, Emmons explains that teachers do not leave college knowing how to be great teachers. "Skill and competence are built through experience, effective mentoring and relevant professional development." Clear and consistent goals, adequate resources and tools to achieve those goals matter, as does, "the respect of colleagues, policymakers, and the general public."

Good teachers do a lot more than show up. This demanding profession cannot be done by rote or formula. Teachers must plan, create engaging lessons, listen effectively, think on their feet, connect, be organized, smile, use assessments to redirect their teaching, reflect, redesign, and improve. Create all over again.

If we want good teachers, we can help create what Emmons calls the "psychosocial environment" that makes them want to pour their hearts and minds into their work on a daily basis. If teachers were made of steel, they could better withstand the ever-changing public policies, administrators, students and families, educational fads and expectations that affect their daily lives. Not to mention the attacks by people with their own agendas. Despite these pressures, teachers have to stay the course.

Don’t underestimate the harm inflicted on quality education by the teacher bashing that is part of a long-term effort to discredit public education. Little by little, it is eroding the confidence and will of the people who do this important human development work.

We must give educators the support that helps them rise to the level we want. Acknowledgment is powerful. Use it. Write a note, visit a school and observe, express your gratitude in person. Send a letter to the editor, or invite your elected representative to see the great work that teachers do. Let people know you are proud of our children and their teachers. Challenge the naysayers who make sweeping generalizations about educators and schools.

Start by visiting www.reachingheights.org and click "Thank A Teacher."

Susie Kaeser

Susie Kaeser, a longtime resident of Cleveland Heights and former director of Reaching Heights, recently joined the board of trustees of the Home Repair Resource Center.

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Volume 4, Issue 6, Posted 2:53 PM, 06.01.2011