Why teachers matter: policy
agendas and social trends
Teachers matter. They matter to the education and achievement of their students and, more and more, to their personal and social well-being. No educational reform has achieved success without teachers committing themselves to it; no school has improved without the commitment of teachers; and although some students learn despite their teachers, most learn because of them – not just because of what and how they teach, but, because of who they are as people.
when you go back to a list of qualities that made your best teachers so
effective, you probably noticed that so much of what made them sig-
nificant in your life was not what they did, but who they were as human
(Zehm and Kottler 1993: 2)
A recent OECD report (2005), like most research on school effectiveness and improvement, identifies the crucial role of the teacher to the social and economic well-being of society. Ask most parents and they will tell you that it is the teacher who matters most in the education of their children.
So the rhetoric is clear. Teachers matter. Usually, the conversation then turns to what kinds of teachers we need, and, while lip service will be given to the need for teachers who care and who 'make a difference' to the education of the whole student, it soon focuses upon 'standards', 'competencies' and skills required of today's knowledge workers. Moreover, in today's results driven environment, it is those aspects of teaching and learning