What Makes an All-Star Teacher

LeBron Then and Now

When LeBron James first got to the NBA, many hailed him as the next great player. He was explosive, he could play defense, he could make plays. They praised him and he played well his first year. But everyone said that LeBron needed to work on his shot. Over the next few seasons, LeBron James’ shot got better. Then they said he needed to work on a “post game” (playing offense with your back to the basket, close to the rim) because of his rare size and speed. After an off-season or two, he developed those back down skills. Then he became more aggressive offensively after an off-season of fine-tuning. Every year, LeBron James gets better by using the off season to add something new to his “game”. This is how an All-Star teacher approaches education.

The summer is a time to relax. But the best athletes in the world don’t use their off-seasons to sit back and spend their millions (In case you want to argue with that point, I said the best athletes, not all athletes). Those who become All-Stars do so by putting time in when no one is watching. The teachers who become the best at their craft do not get there by simply carrying the same mentality into each new “school season”. They become All-Stars by growing to understand that each year is truly a “new” one.


How do teachers grow?

Every educator knows the easy answer to this. Good teachers devote a portion of their summer to some type of professional development. And the PD I am referring to doesn’t have to come in the form of traditional PLCs. I am alluding to the type of development that fosters a growth in mentality. Twitter chats, reading books that change an outlook one held, and simply reflecting on the positives and negatives of the last “teaching season” are what turns teachers into All-Star educators.

There are many teachers who will go back to school and use the same approaches they’ve used for the last ten years because their idea of education is built on the presumption that, regardless of generation, all kids need to learn a certain way. There are teachers who will step back into their classroom with a new set of students and photocopy the same worksheets they’ve used for the last ten years without the slightest inkling that perhaps children born in 2002 learn and respond differently than those who were born in 1992. There are teachers who neglect and malnourish children from the first day of school because they assume he or she is the same exact student from a year ago; they will treat “Deshawn” the same way they did for the last two years without giving the kid an opportunity to demonstrate his maturity or his growth. The same thing year in and year out. But we expect our students to grow, right?

All-Star teachers do not do this. They develop their “game”. They start every season understanding that “last season” has no bearing on this one. They take the break to re-evaluate and grow. All-Star educators understand the deepest meaning of the word “new”. Fortunately, the difference between sports and school is that in education every teacher can be an “All-Star.”


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Matthew R. Morris

Educator, Speaker, Writer

Matthew R. Morris is a writer, speaker, and elementary educator in Toronto. He has an M.A. in Social Justice Education from OISE at the University of Toronto and is the author of the forthcoming book, Black Boys Like Me. 

Matthew R. Morris

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