The Women's Journal

The Good Teacher*

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By Dr. Angela Hoover

Elementary Principal, PA Leadership Charter School


Many of us remember the excitement and thrill of packing our backpacks the night before the first day of school. We were filled with anticipation of meeting our teachers and hoping that we had the “good” one.  But, what does a “good” teacher look or sound like?

These are very simple questions, yet very complex to answer. Many of us would answer these questions differently. Parents may utilize social networking and other parent input to make this decision.  Administrators may provide responses that are very analytical. Teachers themselves might struggle to provide a clear, concise response.

So, how do you know that your child has a “good” teacher?  That’s the million dollar question. Unfortunately, there are no correct answers to these questions. But, consider this: each one of us forms an opinion of people that we meet within the first couple of minutes. We critique one another’s social skills, mannerisms, and nuances. This critique could instantly be positive or negative. But, it’s that first impression that creates a conscientious decision on how we feel about another person.

If this holds true, then think about your child’s teacher. Stop, and really think about whether or not your child received a “good” teacher this year. How much time have you spent getting to know this teacher? How much time has your child spent with the teacher? Have you had a personal conversation with the teacher that was meaningful and insightful?

With that being said, let’s take a historical journey on how your child’s teacher became certified. The teacher has graduated from a university with a degree in education. During their time of study at the university, they also had to pass several state-mandated exam-inations to receive their initial teaching license. Their competencies for both educational pedagogy and theory are not only tested, but put into practice during their student teaching experience. Upon successfully completing all of these requirements, it’s time to apply for the ceremonial graduation walk where they are handed their first teaching certificate.

After spending a minimum of four years studying to become a teacher, they must return to the classroom and obtain an additional 24 credits, complete three years of satisfactory performance within the school district, and attend a school sponsored induction program before they can apply for their permanent teaching certificate.  When a teacher is hired by a school district, they are required to accumulate 180 hours or 6 graduate credits every five years during their profession to keep their permanent certificate active. If they fail to meet these requirements, they immediately lose their job, and have to hit the books again to renew their certification. A school district cannot keep a teacher on its staff without a current certification.

And the interview process begins for School Administrators. Piles of resumes are stacked on the desk of the human resources contact. What a daunting task to undertake. Who should the district invite to interview?  Should it be the candidate with the highest grade point average? Wait! Maybe it should be the candidate who has some extra experience working with children? Hours upon hours are spent shuffling through each resume and narrowing in on maybe a handful of candidates out of a hundred or more resumes. How does the human resources contact define a “good” teacher?

It appears that finding a “good” teacher has become quite a long and arduous process. It’s complicated. There are so many factors that have to be considered because each school is unique in its culture and its needs. Who will be the best “fit” for the position? Who will work collaboratively with the staff? Who will be the gem that will act as an advocate for the school and the children?

Every school district puts forth its best effort to search for the perfect teacher for their schools. Many people within the school district work behind the scenes as part of the search process.  Each teacher has been extensively trained and certified. Teachers must be competitive and prove themselves worthy of a full time position in a school. Making the final cut is commendable. They are put through a rigorous hiring process.  Therefore, we should hold some trust in our schools to define and find a “good” teacher.  Our schools and the teachers are responsible and held accountable for the education of every child.