We asked Dr. Thompson (or Dr. T, as he's better known) to give us the often overlooked signs of a great teacher:
1. When the students in the classroom are doing more talking than the teacher.
In today's classroom, learning should be inquiry based, not teacher directed. 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. When a teacher shares ideas with other teachers.
The sharing of ideas actually helps the teacher hone their skills and incorporate best practices from other teachers. Just as doctors consult one another on patients, teachers should engage in the same type of dialogue with one another.
3. When a teacher knows more than just the curriculum, but the intent of the curriculum.
Learning is not just about what the subject matter is, but 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. When a teacher recognizes and rewards student effort, even for the small stuff.
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 their students are doing, even if that means they are just showing up to 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 their students that they matter. Sometimes, it's as simple as that.
Dr. Thompson's efforts to transform John McDonogh High School can be seen on the new OWN docu-series Blackboard Wars, premiering Saturday February 16th at 9/8c on OWN. Watch a sneak peek here.