I wrote the following a while back about being a badass teacher.
I’ve known a couple in my life, badass teachers. Teachers I want to be like. Teachers that the kids love, whose kids do orders of magnitude better on standardized tests than everyone else’s, whose student work shows the highest levels of critical thinking, teachers who can make administrators quiver in fear.
It seems to me that there are three common characteristics:
1) Expertise and passion for the subject matter. They are not the english teacher who isn’t sure what the plural of syllabus is. It’s not the math teacher who can’t properly combine probabilities. They don’t see their subject matter by grade level – they see the big picture, the whole giant beautiful enchilada, and what they’re teaching is just the small step on their student’s lives of getting there.
It’s not enough for them to understand their subject, they also understand how other people don’t understand it, and how to make the connections that allow the students to gain that knowledge.
2) A sense of discipline that is almost fanatically devoted to what will make the kids learn more. The whole discipline program comes from the idea that anything that allows the kids to learn more is good, anything that slows them down is bad. Swearing isn’t bad because it’s rude, it’s bad because it distracts other students from learning. The reason chewing gum isn’t allowed is because someone will step in it later, and have to spend time on that instead of their studies. And finally, probably most importantly, students are almost never, ever sent out of the classroom because they can’t learn when they’re sitting in line at the dean’s office.
3) A willingness to fight the powers, be it administration, union, or politicians, who get in the way of their kids education. Screw the contract, screw the norms, and screw the law if it isn’t the best thing for the kids.
Looking over this list, it seems that a teacher must be an avatar – completely selfless and egoless, but in practice, it’s so much more than that. I suspect that this introspection is going to be an ongoing thing for me…
I think it’s still true. I’m not sure that’s everything to being a badass teacher, but its’ a damn fine start