What makes a teacher great? Dr. Marvin Thompson, the new principal of John McDonogh High School in New Orleans -- and star of the new OWN docu-series "Blackboard Wars" -- shared four often-overlooked signs with OWN. (And he should know about great teachers: In his previous post as superintendent of the Roanoke City Public Schools, Dr. Thompson increased the number of accredited schools by 25 percent, closed the No Child Left Behind achievement gap and increased the number of students scoring “Passed Advanced” on the Virginia assessment tests.)
4 Signs Of A Great Teacher
1. The students in the classroom are doing more talking than the teacher. "In today’s classroom, learning should be inquiry based, not teacher directed," says Dr. Thompson. "A good teacher sets the stage for students to investigate, inquire and create an engaging learning environment. A meaningful, class-wide discussion is a positive sign."
2. He or she shares ideas with other teachers. "The sharing of ideas actually helps the teacher hone his or her skills and incorporate best practices from other teachers," Dr. Thompson says. "Just as doctors consult one another on patients, teachers should engage in the same type of dialogue with one another."
3. The teacher knows the intent of the curriculum. "Learning is not just about what the subject matter is," says Dr. Thompson, "but [about] what the students are meant to master through the learning process. It is not enough to teach students how to multiply and divide, but to ensure they also understand the skills behind the lesson. If a student can’t relate what they are doing to real-world activities, it often limits the relevance of the lesson -- which in turn diminishes engagement and interest."
4. The teacher recognizes and rewards student effort, even for the small stuff. Says Dr. Thompson, "If students are doing something positive -- and every child is capable of something positive -- recognize them for their effort. Sometimes all a student needs is a little encouragement. A great teacher focuses on what his or her students are doing, even if they're just showing up for class -- because you never know what learning fears they have. You never know what challenges they are facing outside the classroom. A great teacher shows students that they matter. Sometimes, it’s as simple as that."
Dr. Thompson’s efforts to transform John McDonogh High School -- considered to be "one of the worst schools in America" -- can be seen on the new docu-series "Blackboard Wars," premiering Saturday, Feb. 16 at 9 p.m. ET on OWN.