As July ends and August begins, teachers, parents and students alike begin to think about the approaching school year. With school on the brain, it’s time to think about ways to create an engaging educational experience. One ingredient is an awesome teacher heading up the class.
Every student has likely come across at least a few truly outstanding teachers. Great teachers work in all disciplines and grade levels. Many of the best educators have found their way into AP classrooms, helping bridge the high school experience with college-level content.Let’s break down some of the ingredients of excellent teaching in AP courses. Let’s talk about what makes these teachers tick.
Perhaps one of the biggest factors in a teacher’s quality is experience. This is not to say that first and second year teachers are bad at their jobs. Many new teachers do excellent work and have loads of experience in their field. They also have fresh perspectives on the latest trends in education. However, a few extra years of teaching allows for an educator to understand some of the nuances and unwritten rules about teaching. They know how to measure learning and manage a classroom better. However, low salaries keep many more seasoned teachers from staying in the profession, even though they enjoy their work. In some states, teachers receive such little pay that some fall below the poverty line.
2. Content Area Knowledge
Although all teachers need to possess a deep knowledge of the subject they teach, AP teachers must know about concepts usually reserved for only the most difficult college courses. In AP courses, a teacher’s background becomes a deciding factor for student success.
An AP teacher serves as a model for their students in multiple ways. First of all, a teacher’s demeanor often affects student attitudes. Students learn how to act in professional settings by observing their teacher’s behaviors. A teacher’s respect prompts students to respond with similar attitudes. Second, a teacher’s expectations often influence the degree of achievement in their classrooms. High expectations of individual students (or even entire classes) correspond to better grades and learning. Lastly, an AP teacher is inviting students to begin participating in a particular discipline. In order for students to learn more about different subjects, they need access knowledgeable teachers. An awesome teacher is one who represents both their discipline and the profession of teaching in the best ways possible.
“Teaching to the Test” remains an oft-criticised and ineffective approach to education. This is mostly because the approach often includes more rote forms of learning. However, the importance of exams to AP courses necessitates a certain amount of test preparation. A great AP teacher has to toe the line between preparing for the exam and encouraging students to internalize the material. AP teachers have to balance teaching students to answer questions and to ask their own.
5. Inquisitive Nature
As I’ve mentioned, teachers are often students’ first experiences with academic disciplines. They need to model how to use subject-specific ways of knowing. For this reason, an outstanding AP teacher needs to have an inquisitive nature. They need to always be asking questions, both about the content and their teaching. Inquiry can help improve not only knowledge but also practice. This ability to question and adapt is critical in an AP course, which has ever-changing standards and requirements.
A skilled teacher is critical to any AP student’s success. However, a great teacher is only part of the puzzle. In order for a student to reap all of the benefits from an AP experience, they need to fulfill their end of the deal as well. Next week, look out for another related post about the qualities of a great AP student.