Striking a great teacher

By Greg Whitby, 19 September 2018


Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

Having a great teacher is like striking gold or winning the lottery. For learners, the rewards are just as tangible in terms of motivation, goals and well-being. That’s why it can be upsetting when children come home saying they don’t like their teacher.

Sometimes this feeling is short-lived For some though, not having that rapport with a teacher is really tough. As we know from our own schooling experience, positive student-teacher relationships are at the heart of good learning and teaching.

Like a thriving garden, these relationships take time and effort to cultivate. Unfortunately, our current model of schooling leaves little room for relationship-building. In this model, teachers are driven to deliver academic outcomes and meet an increasing number of ‘standards’.

This is not meant to excuse teachers from their core work but it does reiterate the need to find meaningful ways of developing positive student-teacher relationships.

Parents are central to this of course. The majority of parents will have come to recognise their child’s strengths and limitations, they will know what excites them and what turns them off learning. They will often know this even before their child starts school.

That information is gold because it contributes to the teacher’s understanding of who the child is, what they are capable of and where their interests lie. Regular parent contact with teachers also means that any misunderstandings are corrected and any issues that may impact on the quality of the student-teacher relationship are addressed immediately.

Another way of growing student-teacher connections is by integrating home and school life when it comes to learning. Too often we see these as separate domains but we open up a whole new perspective to teachers when students are able to display their home-projects, discuss and pursue their hobbies and interests at school.

The motivation to learn and succeed is enhanced when every student feels safe, supported and is given greater autonomy to make decisions about his or her learning. While we do not have a model of schooling that allows students to pick their own teacher, they do have the right to a good teacher and an awesome schooling experience.

Our system, along with many other schools, is moving away from the one teacher, one class model to a more contemporary and flexible structure in which several teachers are working collaboratively in one space to deliver the learning. When this happens, the well-being of each child becomes the responsibility of all teachers not just one. It also increases the odds of striking a great teacher!

Greg Whitby

Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta


Greg Whitby is the Executive Director of Schools - Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta
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