Great Teaching is Not a Noun

Adjectives and verbs beat Nouns when it comes to great teaching.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to be at the Kentucky Council for the Social Studies (  While sitting around talking with teachers and discussing our practice, we came on the subject of “great teaching” and “great teachers.”  It struck me, that great teaching and great teachers can not be described with nouns.  They are usually described with words like engaging, thoughtful, creative, caring, and intuitive among others.  We describe them with adjectives or even verbs.  I’ve never heard someone describe a great teacher or great teaching by saying, “tablet” or “Smart Board.”  Yet, that’s the subtle message that’s being sent to teachers, students, and parents.  Don’t believe me?  Think about it.  Is your school community more concerned with the nouns in education?  Are words like tablets, computers, interactive white boards, or even dare I say new buildings bantered about more than professional development?  Where is your school community placing it’s value for education?  Where are you placing it?

Tough questions to be sure.  I am not saying that all those nouns are bad.  Far from it, they can be wonderful tools in the hands of a great teacher.  That’s just it though, all those things are what George Carlin would affectionately call “stuff.”  Great teaching is more than stuff and it takes more than some fancy tools to be a great teacher.  Great teaching takes skill and talent.  It takes time and development.  If we placed more time, energy, and money investing in the adjectives rather than the nouns, we’ll go so much further in education.

What is your school community doing to foster the adjectives and verbs of great teaching?  What are you doing?  Please share.

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