What Makes a Master Teacher « The Principal of Change

The term “master teacher” seems to get thrown around a lot, but is something that many educators aspire to be. In my ten years in the field of education, I would say that the definition of “master teacher” has definitely changed. When I think of a master teacher, here are the qualities that I would say makes someone a master teacher:

1. Connects with kids first

2. Teaches kids first and curriculum second

3. Ensures that they draw relevance to curriculum

4. Works with students to develop a love of learning

5. Embodies lifelong learning

6. Focuses on learning goals as opposed to learning goals

7.  Ensures that “character education” is an essential part of learning

8.  Passionate about the content they teach

These are the characteristics that I believe make a master teacher.  I definitely know that as an administrator these are ideals as a teacher leader that I work towards everyday and want to embody.  The one thing that I do know is that my learning is nowhere near complete and I can still grow.  Learning from you, what areas do you think I missed on this list?  I would love to hear your thoughts as I continue to grow.

I have been pondering what it is to be a master teacher this school year. This should always be in the back of our minds as practitioners, but it is particularly important to me this year because this is a year when I need to reflect about my practice with the help of my administrators. Embodying lifelong learning is much on my mind. As Couros points out, mastery of teaching does not equate to perfection. Like all of us, I feel angst about my failures and struggle for professional growth. This drives my desire for connections. I listen and learn from the stream of my growing professional network. I am humbled by the clarity of thought around me. Thanks to contemporary networking, I own my learning.

Much of what is said here focuses on the primacy of our relationship with the young people we teach and learn from. It addresses differentiation but I think a stronger statement about what tools a master teacher must be able to bring to the learning moment might be helpful. A master teacher can critically reflect on the efficacy of varied learning strategies, adopt and adapt.

Because I know it is one of my greatest weaknesses as a teacher, I think communication needs to be broadened to include the other stakeholders in a child’s learning. A master teacher attends to when communication will be effective and when discretion or confidentiality is warranted.

Despite the discourse I hear on democratic education, I think master teachers must be able to foster self discipline in their learners and this may include unreflected compliance in younger people. This remains a key to providing an environment where students can engage in connected learning.

Finally, I think there have been shifts in what we want in a master teacher. Today’s master teachers need to exemplify the teacher’s modified role in learning.  This is more than simply applying a different strategy in the classroom. This is a dramatic shift in power.

About Alan Stange

I am an Alumni of the University of Regina, class or 1980. After a two year posting with CUSO in Kaduna, Nigeria, I worked in South-central Saskatchewan in rural K-12 schools. I took a year of post-graduate studies and then moved into administration. I stepped out of that role in 2007 and returned to the classroom as an elementary school teacher. I am currently in Moose Jaw.
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