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Ayers on Good Teachers


Learning Isn’t Easy and Teaching Isn’t Simple

There are many challenges in teaching that are not obvious to an inexperienced or aspiring educator; in an oversimplified view of the profession, if the teacher has a basic understanding of the material along with a good curriculum to follow, they should be able to transfer the information to the students easily. However, the reality is that for many students school is difficult. As Ayers (1993) puts it, “a life in teaching is a stitched-together affair, a crazy quilt of odd pieces and scrounged materials, equal parts invention and imposition” (p.13). Teaching is not as linear or simple as we are often led to believe. 

Active Learning

Learning is an active process and students learn better when they are engaged. That is, they understand, retain, and enjoy the classroom experience more. Asking students to be actively engaged and participate while learning is ridiculous if the teacher is passively following a curriculum. The teacher needs to be just as (if not more) engaged as they expect their students to be, or engagement will drop.

What about disengagement? 

Ayers (1993) draws an interesting comparison between teaching and apathy; he says that teaching by “some pre-planned curriculum, teaching as the orderly and scripted conveyance of information” is like being a sales clerk (p.17). The teacher strictly teaching by the curriculum is simply processing and spitting out information. It is an emotionless process, and more often than not it fails to captivate students. Contrariwise, it’s easier to thrive in a classroom with a teacher who makes their students feel special.

What makes a good teacher?

A good teacher gets to know their students, knows the difference between equality and equity, does not pick favorites, and has a growth mindset. As Ayers (1993) puts it, a good teacher understands that “learning is dynamic and explosive, and a lot of it is informal; much of it builds up over time and connects suddenly” (p.28). Overall, a good teacher wants to teach the students before they want to teach the material.

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