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Inside Teaching : June 2011
www.atra.edu.au | firstname.lastname@example.org MY BEST TEACHER 27 ‘Really high-impact teachers passionately care that you know their subject. It was not so much that they cared for us, as some were quite strict; it was that they wanted us to share their love of their subject. ‘Miss Fisher was my Year 1 teacher and, wow, did she make coming to school fun by constantly finding challenges for us. ‘Mr Tomlinson certainly was another high-impact teacher for me. He cared that we all shared his love of mathematics in Year 11 and worked so hard to turn this subject into a source of success and satisfaction. ‘Mr McNeill must have rolled his eyes at my early attempts to become a teacher in teachers’ college, but he persisted to show me how to succeed.’ So how did Hattie rate himself as an early-career teacher? ‘Sometime into my first year’ – Hattie began teaching at Macandrew Intermediate School in Dunedin, New Zealand, in 1972 – ‘I started to worry whether I was doing enough, whether the kids were learning with the gains that were expected. ‘I had the best group of 35 kids that could be imagined. They challenged me, I challenged back, we had some fun, and I only hope there was some learning along the way. I rated myself high as a teacher but still worried about whether I had any impact on the kids’ learning. ‘I enjoyed the year at Macandrew so much that I knew I could take theriskoftryingtodoaPhD–if it didn’t work I could come back to a great profession.’ Teachers early in their career learn plenty from their colleagues, says Hattie, but also from students. ‘One student struggled at maths and that made me learn a lot about how to make a difference; some were gifted in some areas, including three who were very knowledgeable in geology; and I brought in my student mates to work with them and learned the fun of sharing the teaching and learning with others.’ There are many people who can have a high impact on young people, Hattie points out. ‘I still coach cricket and see how so many adults can use their knowledge and expertise. We need to think more about how other adults can be part of the “coproduction” of teaching.’ It’s important, says Hattie, to excel at something sufficiently to know how to set personal bests and then aim to exceed them. ‘I’ve had spurts of fun with crosswords, tennis, cricket. Right now, it’s Scrabble. I like to set targets and then succeed, and then set higher targets. It can become obsessional, but hey, obsessing about having fun and enjoying a passion is not so bad. It’s also taught me the importance of helping all students see the intention of a lesson, what success looks like at the end of this lesson, and then how to engage in achieving a personal best.’ The identification of high- impact teaching and achieving personal bests come together in Hattie’s new role as the director of the research institute of the University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education. ‘I see the quality at the top within the Melbourne Graduate School of Education; I see the ambition of stunning people to transform teacher education; and I see the impact of their research. This was part of the attraction for me of coming to Melbourne. I hope to play a part in ensuring the continuation of this mission, creating spaces and opportunities for the next generation of expertise, and finding ways for this creative and talented generation to maximise their impact with schools across Australia and the world.’ That suggests Hattie knows what success looks like and how best to achieve it. John Hattie’s latest book is Visible Learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement, published by Routledge. Visible Learning For Teachers And Students: How to maximise school achievement will be published by Routledge in 2012.