Reflecting on Effectiveness




How effective are you as a teacher?

That question leads me to consider the many factors that exist within a classroom as well as the definition of effectiveness.  Does effectiveness mean your students pass? Or does it mean that your students loved you as a teacher and don’t want to go onto to the next grade because they had so much fun?

What needs to be front and center is if your students are learning?  Did they have success academically? This is what is important because it is your job, but this cannot be achieved without other factors such as the emotional environment of your classroom, your skill as a teacher, your passion for learning and the motivation you provide, as well as how you assess success within the classroom.

Now, I have been teaching for 30+ years and I still question if I was effective.  I use assessments to show growth, but I also triangulate that data with other factors.  Key for me is the relationship I make with my students who often stay with me for several years.  I believe as I did my first year that as a teacher I need to truly know the student as a person and a learner.  For me to be effective I need to know what the student will respond to and what they will shut down with.  Then I use observations, conversations and their work to display their growth.  I also consider their personality.

For example, I work with two fifth grade boys who unfortunately I only get to see once a week.  One day, one of the boy’s grandmother was on cafeteria duty and we stopped to chat.  She told me about a book he had to read and he could not read it.  This made me stop to question why and wonder how she defines “can’t read”.   So, I took into consideration his personality and asked the teacher to send them down with the book.

They came to me, book in hand, whining how the whole class HAD to read.  Of course, the book was “stupid”.  I asked them to tell me about the book and they read a bit aloud to me.  As I questioned, listened and talked with them about this “stupid” book, I realized that this book is not of interest to them.  It is a wonderful book and read, but it is not in their reading zone.  They shut down.

So, would you say using this book was effective teaching?  How will those boys be assessed?  Will their heart be involved in the work that they needed to complete?  All of these questions can be answered with one word—No.

To be an effective teacher you cannot expect your students to jump through hoops that you think they should  jump through because the basal series said so.  (Yes, they still use basal series.) You can’t shut the door on their ability to be successful.  During the elementary years,  we need to open the door so the students can build their identity and self-esteem as learners.  Don’t keep giving the students material that will turn them off to working, exploring, and questioning.  Open the door to learning.

So, as the year comes to its end, I reflect upon the effectiveness of my teaching.  Did I help my students develop as readers?  Did I help them strengthen their self-esteem, their self-confidence, and their love of reading?  They will not overcome all their struggles just because they had a teacher who cared, but the impact from a caring teacher will be lasting as they continue on their journey to learn.


14 Comments Add yours

  1. Maureen says:

    You have shared so much wisdom here! I totally agree, teachers “need to truly know the student as a person and a learner.” Our effectiveness is directly proportional to the time & flexibility we are given in this regard – as your anecdote illustrates, if we are able to work with students individually, we won’t be giving every student the exact same “stupid” text to read… Thank you for this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Chris Pesta says:

      True, I wish all teachers had the time to spend with students on the texts they choose.


  2. I really like your questions. It has me questioning my effectiveness this year and wondering how I might improve. I teach junior high and high school level students, but all the points you brought up continually apply. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. hollymueller says:

    The question of whether or not we are effective teachers is one we always need to keep asking, don’t you think? It keeps us in the self-assessing mode, which is imperative, I believe. The daunting fact is that it means “all of the above” – it can’t be academic achievement and growth without relationships, and it can’t be relationships without achievement and growth. That’s what makes this such a challenging career!! Thank you for posing the question and sharing your thoughts to get us thinking!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Chris Pesta says:

      I agree with you that the relationship helps spur on the academic success. I often look back on the teachers I had in grade school to college and I worked for those teachers. I learned from those teachers because of the relationship and respect I had for them.


  4. lynnedorfman says:

    The relationships we forge with our students are important. We need to help them grow reader and writer identities and friendships. I think building in choice to reading selections and much of what we do is very important. Reflecting on our literacy practices and effectiveness is ongoing and very necessary…yes!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow! I love your post. Investment in your students is key to their learning and growing, not to mention gaining a positive self concept or leading them towards self-efficacy in learning. Recently, I have been exploring personalized learning as a final project for a graduate course I am taking in teaching and learning. Your explanation of the book choice and reader shut down is a wonderful example of how things need to change to better service our students. It is all because you took the time to care and learn about what was going on with the student. You invested. Relationships are key in having a positive educational experience. Thank you for your examples.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Chris Pesta says:

      Hope your project is moving along! Good luck and keep up the great work!


      1. Thanks….It is shaping up.


  6. The word “effective” jumped out at me in your post. I spent the afternoon conversing rather passionately with my coaching team about why we were so “ineffective”. Many of the same ideas you presented apply – we are only focused on the “next thing” and not enough on each other. I’ll be sharing this post with them to remind us that effectiveness is not just for teachers!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Juliette says:

    Thanks for the reminders. I keep reflecting on my teaching and seek ways to be more effective.
    This makes me think about my previous students and the relaionships I built with them. I also agree
    with the giving children the opportunity to select the books they enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. mgminer says:

    Yes. Yes. Yes. Effectiveness is dynamic and always changing according to the child sitting in front of you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. djvichos says:

    Great questions here and an important reflective exercise that we as educators must make part of our practice. I’m glad that you recognize both the importance of helping students to achieve academically and the importance of building relationships. I could sense your frustration with the basal reader and the boys mismatched text. It shines a light on the problems with our education methods and curriculum. We as teachers need to continue to ask ourselves hard questions so that we can identify and address these issues.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Chris Pesta says:

      We are only able to move forward through asking the hard questions!


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