Among the ideals for which we strive at BASIS Independent McLean is to be exemplary. Competent teachers are rather common, and great teaching is a noble goal. But extending beyond excellence to be an exemplar... this is and has been our common focus. Being exemplary, I argue, must be defined, practiced, and shared. Here is what we are doing at BIM.
First, the faculty engaged in a group exercise citing exemplars from their own lives. We noted common themes and qualities. From there, we began to articulate what we would define as qualities of exemplary teaching. Then each of us, in our own words, began to craft and hone a descriptive narrative on what constituted exemplary teaching. The resulting statements are living documents, keeping us mindful of the ideal we strive to achieve.
These statements will help us self-assess and to remind us of the qualities and elements of exemplary teaching daily even amidst the challenges and complexities of the profession. Focusing on exemplary teaching helps all of us be better.
Here are a few examples from faculty:
An exemplary Early Learning teacher incorporates play, exploration, and inquiry-based learning in the classroom. Learning through play is essential for the youngest learners. Additionally, the child, teacher, and environment work together to support learning in the early years. Children are the constructors of their learning; the teacher and the environment, including materials, act as a guide on a child’s learning journey. Communication and collaboration is also key. Ongoing, consistent communication and collaboration with parents, colleagues, and administration is important for creating and maintaining effective teaching. Building relationships with students through effective, positive communication and actions is also vital. Lastly, flexibility and understanding is critical for effective teaching and learning.
An exemplary teacher seeks positive change in the world: in their school, in their students, and in themself. How? They are passionate about their subject. It’s that passion that leads them to constantly look for new, better ways to capture students’ interests and teach skills. They care about their students as people. It’s that caring that ensures they respect their students’ time by always having a why for what they teach. It’s what lies behind their commitment to helping students grow as people, even when that means they might have to fail a particular assignment. Exemplary teachers show that its ok to fail. They take risk, try amazing things in the classroom, and when they don’t work, they make improvements and try again.
An exemplary teacher cultivates and nurtures learning in a space that invites questioning, encourages problem solving and supports the process of learning. With a desire to seek more knowledge, find new solutions and a love for learning, one can model this to students. An exemplary teacher sets high expectations for students to work hard and do his/her best. Students are taught to put in place best practices and approach challenges with optimism and strength. In working alongside students with the same mindset, while offering lessons that are dynamic and accessible to all learners, all students are invited, welcome and encouraged to meet these expectations.
An exemplary teacher is one who recognizes that even though a student might often place commas in the wrong place, their writing might still be at the William Shakespeare level. They recognize that even though a student might make a higher than normal number of careless errors in math, their mathematical thinking might rival that of Isaac Newton’s. An exemplary teacher understands why a student may love learning but hate school and figures out a way to help the student love both. An exemplary teacher teaches by instinct, for instance knowing when going off on a tangent might lead to the best learning experience of the year for both students and teacher. Exemplary teachers will understand that on any given day their students are affected by administrators, researchers, school boards and consultants, but they are most affected by what happens in their classroom. They understand that technology is a tool and should never take the place of human interaction. Lastly, an exemplary teacher will advocate for all of their students to receive the best educational experience even if it involves risk taking on the part of the teacher.