Four very different kinds of skill— planning skills, management skills, motivational skills, and instructional skills — enable effective classroom teaching. All of these skills are essential to improving student learning. Unfortunately, we rarely get new teacher candidates with all four. Let’s look at an example of a hypothetical candidate.
Should You Hire Ms. Einstein?
Let’s say a teaching candidate, Ms. Einstein, walks through your door for an interview. How would you evaluate her strengths and weaknesses? Would you hire her? If so, what would you focus on during her induction year into your building?
In the interview, you discover that Ms. Einstein is an expert at differentiated instructional strategies. Her extensive teaching experience and effort in developing her practice have enabled her to acquire a large repertoire of approaches to making skills accessible to students. She believes in innate ability and provides enrichment opportunities for her high-performing students. She is kind to her low-performing students and does not want to make them uncomfortable by expecting too much of them. You observed Ms. Einstein teaching a class that appeared engaging and filled with rich activities. Her compassion for struggling students makes her appear warm and caring. After your interview with Ms. Einstein, you and your team discuss her strengths and weaknesses as a candidate.
What’s the Right Answer?
If Ms. Einstein dumbs down expectations out of compassion for her low-performing students, she will be giving them arsenic sympathy: the kind that kills slowly. Her teaching may widen the achievement gap. She should be considered for a position only if she is willing to challenge her own beliefs about innate ability, raising her expectations for all of her students. This means acquiring the behaviors that send the following messages to all of her students in daily classroom life: “What we’re doing is important,” “You can do it,” and “I won’t give up on you.”