Is teacher selection a game of chance?

Malcolm Gladwell has written an excellent article for the New Yorker.

Gladwell draws a comparison between the dilemmas faced by NFL selectors and school principals in identifying talented young recruits. It’s a critical issue that school systems grapple with. How do we attract and retain excellent teachersdice and leaders?

For me, the article raises several points worthy of professional discussion and debate:

  • are good teachers born or can these qualities be developed?
  • is university the best training ground for teachers?
  • should beginning teachers be apprenticed for 3-5 years?
  • should we pay teachers a more competitive salary to retain quality teachers?
  • should there be a new understanding of what teaching is in today’s world?

    Since the mid 60s, the teaching profession has undergone significant changes as university training and a basic degree became the minimum standard.  While welcoming the academic approach and rigour, I feel as though we may have actually lost something from the learning that took place by working in the classroom with highly experienced teachers for significant periods of time. 

  • It’s interesting that this latter approach follows Bransford et al’s research in which powerful learning happens when there is a focus on content, context and meta-cognition.  I think teachers learning about learning is the key to continual improvement.


    One thought on “Is teacher selection a game of chance?

    1. Good teachers are born with a passion to do the job but need to learn to become excellent teachers.

      The teacher training needs to be more balanced and practical and many more hours spent in a variety of learning spaces.

      Yes, the idea of an apprenticeship is excellent, as many teachers, due perhaps to poor mentoring and numerous other reasons, leave university with a distorted sense of reality about the world inside the learning space.

      What do I think makes an excellent teacher? Someone who is:
      * highly intelligent and practical
      * passionate about and committed to their own
      learning
      * open minded about life and has a good sense
      of humour
      * able to be self reflective, flexible and
      adaptable
      * genuinely passionate about facilitating
      learning
      * keen to collaborate and cooperate with others
      * and so on…and so on…and so on…

      Many of us in the learning arena are talking a lot about ‘learning and teaching’ in the 21st century and what that looks like. Yet, I believe that there are teachers out there who still haven’t made it to the 20th century and they’re not all ‘seniors’ either.

      The challenge for leaders is huge, however, when we’re all on the same page, the school buzzes with energy, life in the learning space is an absolute pleasure and the learning that occurs is second to none.

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