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Teach Like a Champion
I once read a book entitled, “Teach Like a Champion” by Doug Lemov. Mr. Lemov served as a teacher, trainer, consultant and administrator during his career and observed many teachers, both good and bad, over the years. Mr. Lemov became intrigued by what exactly separated the good teachers from the great teachers and decided to write a book about what tools excellent teachers use to separate themselves from the good teachers.
Riverbend School takes pride in hiring talented teachers. We know the importance of having great teachers in our school. When a teaching position is being filled, the screening and interviewing process is very intense. We thoroughly comb through the application materials. We look hard at the transcripts to ensure that the applicant took challenging courses and received good grades in those courses. We also dig into the educational philosophy of each candidate. We know that it takes a certain type of teacher to be successful at Riverbend and we work hard at finding ones that agree with “The Riverbend Way.” And of course, we want the teachers that are able to connect with children.
But just what is it that makes a great teacher? What types of things were identified by Mr. Lemov in his book, “Teach Like a Champion?” Listed below are some of the key chapters that address what it takes to be a great teacher. I am proud to say that for the most part, our teachers are “spot on” in these areas:
1. Setting High Academic Expectations – The teachers know that at Riverbend we want to raise the academic bar as high as possible. There is no room for “academic fluff” in our curriculum. The content is demanding and rich for our junior high students.
2. Planning that Ensures Academic Achievement – The beauty of collaborative planning time is that our grade level and content teachers are able to effectively plan how to cover the information in a given year. Our teachers know the importance of developing curriculum maps, unit organizers and lesson plans. Our teachers are well-planned and well-prepared.
3. Structuring and Delivering Your Lessons – There are many creative and effective ways to deliver the content. The teachers at Riverbend School are encouraged to utilize a variety of methods in delivering the content. The number one priority is to make sure the students get the pertinent information, but we also encourage the teachers to do so in a way that is exciting and engaging.
4. Engaging Students in Your Lessons – It is important to get the students excited about the topic. Often times that means providing a “hook” to peak their interest. Students also like to know the relevance of the content. The awesome teachers of Riverbend do a masterful job of getting the students engaged in the lesson.
5. Creating a Strong Classroom Culture – Riverbend School has worked hard at establishing this – thus the term “The Riverbend Way.” We often receive visitors who marvel over the behavior of our students in the classrooms and hallways. Our teachers do a magnificent job of establishing a positive, healthy culture in their classrooms. Routines, traditions, celebrations and procedures are firmly in place.
6. Setting and Maintaining High Behavioral Expectations – Another area of emphasis at our school. Our students know that they are to conduct themselves in a manner that promotes the learning environment. Dress code is one thing that helps in this area as well. Students are expected to be respectful and responsible. Our teachers never tire of doing what is right and never tire of holding their students to that same standard.
7. Building Character and Trust –We want our students to know that character does matter. The teachers take as many opportunities as possible to teach character through their own actions and through examples in their subjects. We know we want our students to be well educated, but we also want them to become well-rounded and well-grounded, functioning members of our society as well.
8. Challenging Students to Think Critically – The desired goal of a child progressing through a Riverbend School education is to have him/her be able to think critically. The student must first acquire a deep and broad base of knowledge and then make connections with the patterns within each discipline. The student will then begin to model what has been learned. Ultimately, the student will be able to take all of that information and begin to think critically and problem solve.
Isn’t it great to see that many of the items identified by Doug Lemov to become a great teacher are already happening at Riverbend Junior High School? There are still many ways that we can improve and do better, but it was refreshing to read this book and know that our teachers are already doing most of these things. I know I am biased, but I believe we have a team of “Champion” teachers at Riverbend School. Our teachers truly buy into the concept of “The Riverbend Way.” They always give their best and give their all to the students of Riverbend School.
Mr. D. Beharry