The Exceptional Teacher: Transforming Traditional Teaching through Thoughtful Practice

The Exceptional Teacher: Transforming Traditional Teaching through Thoughtful Practice

The Exceptional Teacher: Transforming Traditional Teaching through Thoughtful Practice

The Exceptional Teacher: Transforming Traditional Teaching through Thoughtful Practice


In The Exceptional Teacher, veteran K-12 teacher Elizabeth Aaronsohn examines three important questions: What do our teachers really want our children to get out of school? How do their own schooling experiences inhibit them from achieving these goals? How can a teacher education program give beginning teachers a framework for thinking differently about the whole process of teaching?

The Exceptional Teacher offers the guidance that teacher educators need to help their students become teachers who are knowledgeable and skillful practitioners, while also developing the ability to be reflective, imaginative, courageous, and flexible in the classroom- a model for the students they are instructing. In this inspiring book, Aaronsohn shows that becoming an exceptional teacher can be a difficult but rewarding journey. She explains that success begins in understanding one's self and societal and cultural experiences. Based on qualitative research from student writings and workshops, the author offers practical advice to help begining teachers move beyond their own internalized assumptions, and become educators who will transform their classrooms.

Aaronsohn encourages teachers to develop the practice of honest reflection on their attitudes, thinking, and practices, and especially to develop the capacity to assume the perspective of another person. These practices can be nurtured through the process of in-depth writing, which helps to make meaning of experiences and brings teachers to a new level of consciousnesses about themselves, the world, and the mission of teaching.


As a teacher/educator whose teaching career has now spanned more than forty years, I have often heard practicing teachers say, “Why bother with teacher education courses at all? Why not just send preteachers to us and let us train them here, in the trenches? After all, the university is fantasyland. This is the real world.” A compelling argument. What can prospective teachers learn from books and class discussions that they cannot learn better on the job, in the company of a school full of veteran teachers?

My response to that challenge is complex. First, learning to teach is not all or nothing in either place—the university or the communities in which preteachers will be working. Teacher preparation needs to occur in both places. Preteachers must spend plenty of time and energy observing, reflecting, and then practicing on-site in schools. In fact, their teachers, too—the teacher educators themselves—need to continue to spend a great deal of time in K–12 classrooms, observing and reflecting, learning and teaching. But even that is not enough.

Frequently, preteachers looking at those early field experiences—as well as at the coursework, student teaching, and standardized qualifying exams—consider them to be a set of hurdles to jump over in a race to certification. Another way to look at the process of becoming a teacher, however, is the one this book presents, which is: How shall we prepare prospective teachers not just for obtaining a teaching job but for teaching well, day by day, so that children learn well and joyfully, for many satisfying years?

As the Preface suggests, many studies, disturbing to those of us who hope for significant change in teaching and schools, have indicated that, in general, the effect of teacher education courses is . . .

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