How to Spot Great Teachers

Teach for America sheds light on two decades of insight
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 10, 2010 8:26 AM CST
Good teachers are relentless improving their methods in the classroom.   (Shutter Stocks)

(Newser) – Teach for America is opening its books on 20 years of trial and error in figuring out what makes some teachers great and others complete busts. As it screens college applicants, it now pays special attention to two characteristics: perseverance and life satisfaction. By perseverance, it means "not just an attitude, but a track record" on overcoming challenges, writes Amanda Ripley in the Atlantic. If an applicant turned around mediocre grades in the last two years of college, for instance, that's more telling than overall GPA.

On the latter characteristic, a Teach for America study suggests that those who are content with their lives “may be more adept at engaging their pupils, and their zest and enthusiasm may spread to their students." Once in the classrooms, great teachers tend to relentlessly re-evaluate and revise their classroom methods, get students and families involved, plan "exhaustively and purposefully," and refuse to let the "combined menaces of poverty, bureaucracy, and budgetary shortfalls" affect their big goals.

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