Joe Fatheree: My Student’s Comments On Good Teaching Shook My Soul

14 Jan 2016 | Joe Fatheree

Video: Joe Fatheree discusses being named a Top 50 Finalist for the 2016 Global Teacher Prize. The Varkey Foundation’s efforts to shine a spotlight on education in order to elevate teaching appears to be working. The release of the names of the top 50 finalists for the Global Teacher Prize has generated international attention on both the profession and the candidates. Over the past several weeks, the media has been filled with stories of the teachers being invited to share their thoughts at press conferences or to meet with high level dignitaries. I am sure that I speak for my colleagues when I say that the entire experience has been humbling. I have been blessed to receive well wishes from people and organizations from around the world. However, the thoughts one of my students shared during a recent press conference shook my soul. In a few short moments she succeeded in doing what many experts have failed to do — describe great teaching. Video: Student speaking at Joe Fatheree Press Conference It is true that her definition was not based on empirical research that was collected by a team of the world’s leading academics. Likewise, she did not benefit from having the ability to collaborate with the leadership from a renowned policy think tank. However, the fact that she is a student uniquely qualifies her as an authority on what constitutes great teaching. She along with 750 million of the world’s children have important views on the topic. We need to ask ourselves an important question. What do our students want in a teacher? It would have been easy for the voice of one of my students to become lost in the celebration that came with being recognized as a teacher leader. However, I heard her loud and clear. Her words were profound. They came from the heart and are symbolic of the needs of millions of students around the world who are looking for someone to listen to them and support their dreams. We need teachers who are not only content specialists but also have the ability to assist in developing scaffolding systems that empower students with the ability to realize their dreams. Walt Disney once said, “It is kind of fun doing the impossible.” Great teachers do that every day. Our students serve as witness to the work and have the ability to share meaningful feedback that can assist in the development of future teachers. I am thankful for the opportunity to hear one of my students discuss the topic. The references to me aside, her description paints a picture of an area of teaching that is far too often ignored, the human side. I would like to thank the Varkey Foundation for their willingness to undertake the challenges that come with trying to elevate the profession in order to ensure that classrooms around the world are filled with great teachers. I am excited to join hands with 49 other outstanding teacher leaders to share in that work. However, I encourage all of us to take time to listen to our students along the way. Their guidance may be just what we need in order to accomplish the task at hand. Learn more about Joe Fatheree from his Global Teacher Prize profile.