Would They Say You Are the Teacher or Their Teacher?


Lori Sabo

August 2, 2019

Do you love good professional development as much as we do? We can always learn something of value that helps us revise our practice—whether in an incremental or a revolutionary way— for the benefit of students.

One of the most meaningful professional development experiences I’ve ever had came during four days of district training one summer. The consultant was charming and the content was really outstanding. However, I wrestled with a sense of dissatisfaction, because I wasn’t learning very much. If I had had to narrow it down to one sentence while participating, I would have said, “She is the teacher, but she isn’t my teacher.” And here is what I meant by that and what I learned from it.

The consultant used a set agenda and carefully prepared and researched content, and presented it in a precise, efficient, and engaging manner. However, she did not, at any time, evaluate or assess where participants were in terms of the objectives. I remember thinking, at the end of day two, It doesn’t really matter how outstanding the content or presentation is; if it does not meet the needs of the learner, there won’t be growth.

That’s when I had to take a hard look to see if I am ever guilty of the same thing. Do I ever follow a curriculum, plowing from lesson one through lesson whatever without regard for whether my students are ready for it or already know it? Do I want to be the teacher or their teacher? If I want to be the teacher, I can just plow ahead. If I want to be their teacher, I have to let formal and informal assessments drive instruction for every student in the room.

One reason I love Daily 5 and CAFE so much is that they help us make that shift. Behaviors of independence are high. Tasks are authentic. Students work on goals that are just right for them and tailored to their specific needs. The structure and system assure me that how I felt for 4 days as a learner is not how a child in my room will feel for 180.

If a student were to point to us, would they exclaim, “That’s the teacher” or “That’s my teacher”? It’s only one word, but it makes a big difference.

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