What makes one teacher stand above the rest?
Who are those teachers that get your jaw-dropping every day? … Over the past few weeks, I have had the privilege of visiting a number of schools in my role as a Teaching Awards judge. It has been a real honour to visit schools, become immersed in a community and be exposed to excellent teaching. I wanted to take a moment to share some of the general hallmarks of what makes a ‘nominated teacher’ stand out from the rest.
Firstly, the teacher needs to be nominated by someone. This could be a student, a parent or a colleague. This year there has been a record number of applications. My role – alongside another two judges – each working in a voluntary capacity as former-nominees is to read every application and shortlist teachers who we would like to view first hand to verify what has been written.
Throughout the month of May, nominated teachers are visited and celebrated at the Houses of Parliament in June.
The Hallmarks of Unbelievable Teaching
The following summary indicates what each teacher has had in common. I have also included some generic sound bytes from parents, students and colleagues.
- Their impact is far beyond the school gates. For some, this is at a national level and for others, an international reach
- Colleagues say that ‘nominated teachers’ actually improve their pedagogy – some only using their resources and interpretations, abandoning exam board specifications
- The nominated teachers reduce teacher-workload with/without the use of technology
- “I was about to leave the profession, but Mrs. McGill inspired me and I’ve never been happier”
- During school, students flock around them at any moment of ‘free time’
- Within the school community, they are somewhat of a ‘micro-celebrity’. This is often echoed by parents and governors connected to the school
- Interpretation of the curriculum is genuinely brought to life
- Line managers report that in the nominee’s formative years, that they would share resources with them; years later, they now use their colleagues material instead
- During the observation process, they showed ‘no airs or graces’. In classroom terms, there were no gimmicks. Stupendous teachers carry on as normal, regardless of who is watching
- In all settings, there is a clear range of knowledge-rich and skills-based teaching, proving that ‘what works’ is context specific, achieving the same high-level of outcomes. One teacher quizzed students on complex knowledge issues; another allowed students to move freely throughout the day, self-selecting curriculum subjects and projects
- Coaching students appears to be a key feature in improving student outcomes, wellbeing and self-esteem. Good teaching was underpinned by clear structures, but stupendous relationships, bringing out the best in all students
- Most of all, every student was desperate to be taught by them and their reputation preceded every footstep. That is the true hallmark of a teacher who is not only transforming the lives of students, but also their peers!
There are hundreds of thousands of good teachers out there, and although there are one or two who are heads above the rest, we need to do absolutely everything we can do ‘big up’ the profession. If you’ve not yet nominated a colleague for a teaching award, the process is simple and it doesn’t take much time. So, what are you waiting for?
The Teaching Awards is in its 20th year and is a charity whose mission is to celebrate excellence in education; all award winners receive a visit from a team of Teaching Awards judges in order for them to view at first hand the exceptional work that is taking place. To ensure the consistency of the judging process, judges stay together throughout their visit to ensures that their experiences and observations are shared.