I like interviews.
I like them so much that, when my close teacher friends go on interviews, I always ask about questions and how they answered them. I'm not exactly sure why - it's probably because I like talking about teaching. Some of my friends indulge me, others don't.
A couple of years ago, a friend of mine went on an interview for a teaching/department head job. I've been the head of a science department for six years now, so I was especially curious as to the questions they asked. I also wanted to think about how I would answer them.
I only remember one of the questions. When she told it to me, I secretly thought, "Ohhh, I have a good answer for this one." Then, when she told me her answer, it made me stop thinking that. Her answer was better than mine. A lot better.
The question was, "What would you do if you observed a teacher in your department and saw a bad lesson?" It's a pretty simple, straightforward question. How would you answer it?
At the time, I probably would have said something like, "Well, I hope that I would have already formed a relationship with this teacher, and that I would have a good idea of whether this was an normal lesson or an outlier for them. Then I would discuss it with the teacher, asking them to reflect on the lesson."
My friend didn't say that.
She said, "Can you explain what you mean by a 'bad lesson'?"
That made me stop and think. Describing a lesson as a "bad lesson" really doesn't get at what the purpose of the lesson is. Looking back on it, it really isn't such a great question. The interviewer explained that by "bad lesson," she was referring to a classic, boring "sage on a stage" type lesson that didn't usually engage the kids.
So, what makes a bad lesson?
My friend continued, "I'd have to find out if the kids were learning. As long as the kids are learning, I don't know that I'd call it a bad lesson, so I'd need more information as to why or what parts of the objective were not learned."
This was a great answer - if I had been interviewing her, it would have been a HUGE plus in my notes. (She did not, however, get the job. Their loss).
Anyway, this makes a very important point - lessons and teachers should be assessed by the results they produce. Any lesson that efficiently progresses students toward a worthwhile objective is by definition an excellent one.
While teachers, as professionals, should be willing to try new things and grow our skills, we make a huge mistake when we judge lessons and teachers based on teaching strategies alone. A teacher that lectures students regularly is not necessarily doing a bad job, nor is a teacher regularly using student-centered strategies doing a necessarily good one - or vice versa.
Any teacher that effectively builds relationships with kids and consistently effects learning is good enough for me.