If it were only about test scores, teaching would be the job of a monkey. If students were motivated simply by the score on a test, a ranking next to peers, or a grade they could trade in for some societal goody, then a trained teacher would be superfluous. Learners would come ready to follow the program, and do exactly what is required to make the grade.
It just doesn’t work like that. Like any human endeavor, there is no exact template to follow in order for everyone to find success. In fact, it is template-driven systems that are sure to fail, or at least are sure to fail humans; the system may thrive in spite of the human failure.
Years of teaching have shown me that I need to make crystal clear my expectations. In fact, I need to repeat obsessively my expectations, rephrase them, and maybe even write them on the wall.
Less apparent is my need to know my students’ expectations. Much of their success, or failure, hinges on my understanding of their expectations, motivations, and abilities.
Typically, my students have valued success more than I could imagine. Their feeling of success seems to beget even more success. They become believers not only in the fact that the can learn stuff, but that the teacher can teach stuff. Also, they have an uncanny sense of the authenticity of the teacher’s rapport with students. They can usually tell when my heart isn’t invested in their success. It may be subtle, unspoken, and heavily veiled, but the students know. They feel the love, or lack of love.
Teaching is like coaching: Does this coach know how to win? Does he really, really, really want to win? Is he aware that I’m left handed? That I’m near-sighted? Does he know how much I love to play?
A good coach would have the answers to those questions or would be actively looking for them.