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Invest in great teachers

 Barnett Berry, Special to the News & Observer

Barnett Berry is founder and president of the Center for Teaching Quality, a research-based advocacy organization based in Hillsborough.

North Carolina’s 1.2 million public school students recently met their new teachers for the year. Many students were anxious, wondering whether their teachers would be nice, fun and interesting. Mothers and fathers were giving a parental twist to the same questions. Will this year’s teachers know my child well? Will they be patient and recognize his strengths and weaknesses? Will they inspire her to learn? Will we get a good teacher?

As each school year begins, these questions dominate conversations in schoolyards and backyards and over at the corner store. Seldom, however, do we define what makes for a good teacher. Nor do we seriously consider what it would take for every student to have a quality teacher in every class and grade.

The good teacher does more than deliver entertaining lectures. Good teachers know their subject matter — and they know a lot more. They use tools to assess how students learn as well as what students know. They find materials that "hook into" the knowledge and skills students bring with them. By engaging students in debates, research and experiments, good teachers give them ownership of the learning process. Good teachers create classrooms where all trust and respect one another. (more…)