Who was your best teacher? I'm guessing that it wasn't hard for you to answer that question. It's easy to name those memorable teachers from our lives. One of the foundational beliefs that guides my work with teachers and leaders is the power of the individual teacher. There are a myriad of suggestions for improving schools, and I'm not undervaluing those efforts. But in the end, it boils down to what a teacher does in the classroom.
I was visiting a school where there had been an increase in learning and achievement scores. As I talked with teachers, everyone said, "Oh, we improved because of a new computer program for reading we purchased (name deleted)." I understand the program helped, but it wasn't the program that increased scores--it was how teachers used it. I worked for two educational publishers and one educational software company, and they would love for you to believe materials make a difference.
But here's the bottom line--the best program or materials in the hands of a poor teacher doesn't make much of a difference. And the worst program or materials in the hands of a great teacher makes a positive difference. The best program or materials in the hands of a great teacher is magic.
Implement strategies that make a difference, embrace reforms that work, use materials that help. But never underestimate your role--you make the difference in your classroom!