Have you ever wondered what it takes to become a master teacher? Sure, you know what master teachers do—what their classrooms look like, how they structure their lessons, the kinds of assessments they give, and the strategies they use. But becoming a master teacher involves more than simply doing what master teachers do. To be a master teacher, you need to think like a master teacher.
If you ask master teachers their secret, they may not be able to tell you. That's because most master teachers have a difficult time explaining what makes them masterful in the classroom. Much of what they do in the classroom feels automatic, fluid, and natural. To them, their mastery is simply teaching.
How did they get so good? How did they become master teachers, and how can you become one yourself? The answer is that master teachers have learned how to rigorously apply a few simple principles of great teaching to their practice. They have, in short, developed a master teacher mindset.
The seven principles of mastery teaching are
- Start where your students are.
- Know where your students are going.
- Expect to get your students to their goal.
- Support your students along the way.
- Use feedback to help you and your students get better.
- Focus on quality rather than quantity.
- Never work harder than your students.
As you can see, none of these principles is particularly earth shattering. They are things we all know intuitively that we should be doing in the classroom. But the master teacher mindset develops as a result of systematically and rigorously applying these principles to teaching until they become our spontaneous response to our students. The more you practice these principles, the more you too can begin to think like a master teacher, and the closer you will come to having a master teacher mindset.
How can you start to practice these principles in your own classroom? How can you do so in a way that is true to your own style and suits the learning needs of your particular students? How, in other words, can you systematically apply mastery principles to address the everyday challenges you face as a teacher? This series will show you what to do.
If you discovered this series through its companion book, Never Work Harder Than Your Students and Other Principles of Great Teaching (Jackson, 2009), you'll find some familiar concepts covered here. While Never Work Harder Than Your Students introduced the principles of mastery teaching, the how-to guides in the Mastering the Principles of Great Teaching series will take you step-by-step through the process of integrating those principles into your classroom practice and show you how to apply the principles to resolve specific teaching challenges you face.
Each of the how-to guides in this series focuses on one of the seven mastery principles. You'll examine the principle, assess your current practice of the principle, and learn new ways to incorporate it in your teaching. And because the series is designed to show the mastery principles in relation to specific teaching challenges, working your way through each guide will help you to resolve many of your immediate, day-to-day classroom challenges even as you build your overall mastery mindset.
Mastery teaching is not about fitting into a specific mold, and these guides are designed to help you grow no matter where you are in your practice. If you have read Never Work Harder Than Your Students, you may recall that it includes a diagnostic tool to help teachers assess their skill level in each principle and locate themselves along a mastery teaching continuum ranging from novice to apprentice to practitioner to master teacher. Each of the how-to guides in this series also begins with a diagnostic tool to help you identify where you fall on the continuum so that you can focus specifically on the strategies best suited to your current practice. This format ensures that you will be able to work through all the guides at your own pace and level, cycle back through, and, with each rereading, deepen your understanding and further the development of your master teacher mindset.
The guides in the Mastering the Principles of Great Teaching series follow a standard format. After an introduction to the focus mastery principle and the diagnostic, you will work through chapters that prompt you to apply the principle rigorously and systematically to your classroom practice. Along the way, you will learn new strategies, develop new skills, and take time to reflect on your growth. The tools in each guide help you take a close look at your own teaching, examine your assumptions about teaching and how students learn, and refine your instruction so that your students can learn more effectively.
Becoming a master teacher has little to do with how many years you put in or how closely you resemble a particular Hollywood ideal. It isn't some special gift doled out at birth to only a chosen few. Any teacher can become a master teacher with the right kind of practice—the kind of practice this series of how-to guides offers. In working through them, you too can develop a master teacher mindset and be the master teacher your students deserve.