The “Effective” Teacher

A lot of what Allington writes about in chapter 18 of Adolescent Literacy is what we have been discussing all semester. He notes the importance of creating a classroom community, using multiple texts, instituting strategies for thinking as well as doing, using and sharing various perspectives, making connections to real-life, and the importance of high-quality instruction, all day, everyday.

I’m not going to take a lot of time to reiterate a lot of what we have been (and will be) talking about this semester, but I did want to point to one section of this chapter: the idea that the effective teacher has accomplishments for each student that are “something special,” something beyond test scores.

To follow up, here is the quote that Allington points to in this chapter:

I frequently watched teachers accomplish remarkable things with their students and at the end of the day express guilt about their failure to accomplish this or that part of the curriculum. The guilt was, in my view, both unfounded and unproductive. It was due, in part, to the teachers’ inability to name all the things they did accomplish. (286)

Is teaching to the test allowing us to ignore critical literacies that teachers introduce to students? How can we grade a student (on a multiple-choice test) who has an astounding ability to take the perspective of someone of a different race, class, or religion? What do you all think?

Ray H.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “The “Effective” Teacher

  1. jillian24

    Oh, the joy of portfolio assessments. Anyway, who said grades had to be based upon mulitple choice tests. One of the greatest teachers I ever had dismissed testing on our first day of class. She told us there would be tests because it was required and we would take the Regents at the end of the year to make other people happy. She would grade us on the things that she viewed to be important- our increased knowledge. We did presentations and held class discussions. She challenged everything we thought we knew about learning and US Government. When it came time for the tests and the Regents, we passed with flying colors and more than a few of us were convinced of the worthlessness of multiple choice tests. I believe that the “something special” is the ability to teach for the benefit of the students. The guilt comes from not doing it the way other people think you should and years of education have ingrained in successful students (who then become teachers) that there is a right way.

  2. canadawr5

    I agree with what Allington writes when he talks about making the connections to real life when one is teaching.
    It seems to me that it would be much easier to get across to a student if you showed him or her how the material could have some sort of value in their own personal lives. It’s nice you caught that!

    Ray Canada

  3. allison

    I think if a teacher educates outside and beyond the test, the test should be easy. As in Jillian’s class, if the teacher does a good job, the students should be able to pass easily, right? Why must we be limited by the content of a test when deciding what to teach? This is another way that we can learn from Gruwell, too. Surely she was not concerned with the standardized tests, but the progress she made with the students seems beyond measure.

  4. jmdegan

    I just want to play devil’s advocate for a moment:

    Nobody thought her students would pass a standardized exam. The reason why she was given as much latitude as she recieved was because the expectations weren’t there at the beginning. She didn’t have the pressure of high acheivement because no one expected high acheivement from her students. I don’t even remember her talking about assessment (in any form). In your career (depending on what school you teach at), you may be under more pressure to perform, and if you don’t achieve AYP, then you don’t have a job.

    That’s another point about Gruwell- she taught pre-NCLB.

    J. Degan

    PS- I agree that we need to move beyond testing outcomes as the measure of student success. Portfolios provide us with an excellent opportunity to assess process, improvement, and product across multiple writing samples produced under authentic circumstances (unlike write on demand samples). They provide a thorough narrative of a student’s learning over a period of time. I wish they enjoyed more widespread use.

    PPS- Is someone in this class from VT? If so, I would love to talk to you about the VAP portfolio project from the early nineties.

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