What is Great Teaching?

Upward: Our Head of School's Blog
You’ve probably heard me say that most parents would rather have their child learn from a great teacher in a cave than from a mediocre teacher in a palace. Education is an honorable profession based upon deep, committed relationships, and at the heart, is the rapport between our teachers and your children. Put simply, A good school knows your child’s name, but a great school knows your child by heart.

A teacher’s number one priority at VMS is a commitment to nurturing and nourishing those relationships, but there are also other characteristics that serve as benchmarks for our professional development program. During the opening session of our faculty work week, I shared what I believe to be the nine standards of great teaching.

1. Great teachers are masters of their subjects. They are passionate about the subject matter and secure in their knowledge of the content.

2. Great teachers are deeply committed to their students and treat them all fairly at all times. They are always on the student’s side–student centered not self-centered.

3. Great teachers bring joy into the classroom–everyday–inspiring, engaging, enriching and empowering their students with creative and innovative lessons. Excellence and joy are not mutually exclusive!

4. Great teachers’ pedagogical skills serve every student in the class, not just those who cause no problems or learn effortlessly.

5. Great teachers love working with other teachers, sharing ideas, collaborating on projects in a positive and proactive manner.

6. Great teachers show up to work everyday, even when they may not feel 100%. Great teachers know the opportunities that are lost for the students on that day.

7. Great teachers form educational partnerships with their students, parents, their colleagues, and their administration.A key to this partnership is consistent, open communication based on trust.

8. Great teachers model the school’s mission in an exemplary fashion and truly understand their role as positive and proactive ambassadors in all public and private interactions.

9. Great teachers willingly take on leadership roles in the school culture and perform these roles with honesty and integrity.

A commitment to supporting great teaching must go hand in hand with the expectation. I’m proud to share that the school has invested significant resources to improve faculty benefits, both in the short and long term. We’ve also begun the process of creating a comprehensive faculty evaluation system to provide a consistent, fair and transparent foundation for professional development. These are just two examples of our commitment to attracting, retaining and cultivating great teachers to provide transformative educational experiences for your children. I look forward to seeing you all, and sharing more at Back to School Night this Thursday.

–Mike

About Vail Mountain School

Founded in 1962, Vail Mountain School is a K-12, coed, independent school in Vail, Colorado. Our philosophy is to provide a demanding, college preparatory, liberal arts education in an atmosphere of mutual respect between faculty and students, where nurturing a healthy self-concept and stimulating academic inquiry are parallel objectives. Intentionally designed cross-age programs promote role modeling, responsibility, self confidence, and a sense of community. Our location in the Rocky Mountains allows us to integrate the outdoors into the academic and cultural fabric of the school through hut trips, all-school Ski Fridays, and other experiential learning opportunities. The result: our graduates possess a quiet confidence that serves them well in college and in life—confidence to assert themselves in their first college level essays; to raise their hand in a class of hundreds; to live on their own for the first time, to meet with and engage their professors; and to lead among their peers.