Jenny D. is stuck on her doctoral research and has a lot of questions about what great teaching looks like.
So the problem is, how do you measure instruction? Is it a series of planned acts, like bypass surgery? Is it a series of planned, repeated acts, like practicing a free throw? How do you measure instruction? Is it like woodworking–a craft unmeasurable without knowing the endproduct? Or like painting or drawing, with a few key moves and then the rest left to the "artistic" talent of the artist? If it’s the latter, then no wonder few taxpayers are ready to shell out more money for teaching. Why pay a pack of people to do a job that has nothing to do with skill or experience, but instead depends on some innate "star" quality?
Good teaching is salesmanship. The best teachers I’ve had we’re selling a product they wanted me to buy. As a math teacher I spent a lot of my time trying to sell my students on the idea that they needed to learn Algebra in order to have a successful future.
Of course, like most sales people, I had to vary the pitch depending on the customer and I often had to alter the approach when they said no. And for some of my "customers" I knew what I was selling would be useless to them.
That still leads us back to Jenny’s question: can someone learn to be a good educational salesman? I think it’s very possible. However, while there are "natural born" marketers and teachers, most learn their skills through practice and the support of one or more mentors who show them the tricks of the trade.
Teaching is often compared to the legal and medical professions, both of which have elements of salesmanship. However, those professions also include very comprehensive support systems for the continuing education of their members. That embedded ongoing training is largely missing from the practitioners of K12 education.
Most of us are expected to provide for our own training, operating under a self-developed plan that may or may not fit with the needs of our schools. On top of that the US has fifty or more sets of standards for what it means to become and remain a qualified teacher. And few standards for what it means to be a good educator.
Jenny ends her post by asking "If teaching ISN’T a learned, transferable, standardized profession like doctoring, or lawyering, or architecture, then what is it?". I would submit that teaching IS a learned, transferable skill. Missing is the "standardized profession" part. Until that is addressed, teaching will continue to be viewed by the general public as a part-time job that anyone with a college degree could accomplish.