Foundations of Education and Instructional Assessment/Effective Teaching/Origins

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Teachers: Found in Genes, Books, or Both?

By Brittany Bowman


Learning Targets[edit]

Students should be able to:

1. Understand that some people are born with certain qualities that make them better suited for the job.

2. Understand the benefits of proper training and experience.

3. Understand that the teaching profession demands more than just training ensure success.

Introduction[edit]

While good teachers are essential, great teaches are invaluable. We always remember our greatest teachers. They are the ones that not only educated us, but the ones that motivated and pushed us to our greatest potential. They were driven by the passion of intellectual aspiration. They are the ones that we looked up to as role models, giving us inspiration to one day repay their dedication and teach our future students with as much passion as when they taught us. They are the individuals we go back to visit to reaffirm how great they once were and how great they still are. These are the teachers that we are so fortunate to have had in our lives.

"It's easy to make a buck. It's a lot tougher to make a difference." -Tom Brokaw (Brokaw 2009)

But what makes up a great teacher? Some say it is in the genetic make-up of individuals who are born with distinct, innate qualities and characteristics that makes them better equipped for working in the classroom. Others say that taking courses and reading through textbooks makes a teacher better suited for the job. But who is to say that it can not be somewhere in the middle. Taking into consideration the ideas behind both sides, maybe the answer to the question 'are teachers born or made?' is simply both?

It's in the Genes[edit]

Some believe that genetics and the structured DNA sequence that makes up an individual plays a significant role in how that individual can excel within the classroom as a teacher. A person's genetic sequence can enable them to inherit certain characteristics and qualities that enables their nurturing and teaching side to emerge. These innate characteristics and personality traits can not necessarily be taught, and by tapping into inner talents, the full potential of the teacher can be discovered.


"By nature, some people possess a combination of personality characteristics that are conducive to effective teaching" (Malikow, 2006 1). Having a caring, patient, encouraging, and joyous personality really makes a 'born' teacher stand out compared to a 'made' teacher. These innate characteristics along with many others can not be learned or acquired from reading a textbook or by taking education courses; you either have them or you don't. For a teacher from Framingham, Massachusetts, he had all these qualities and much more. Everyone always remembered Charles Sposato as a natural-born teacher, he went above and beyond expectations. Mr. Sposato was known to be full of spirit and have high amounts of energy that he brought in the classroom to ensure that his students would always be surrounded by a positive environment (Spitz 2007). He even helped a student's family buy needed clothing when money was scarce (Spitz 2007). All the little things really do add up. Based on Mr. Sposato's actions, he was more than a teacher to his students, and he didn't learn that by reading through any textbook.

"Teaching is the only major occupation of man for which we have not yet developed tools that make an average person capable of competence and performance. In teaching we rely on the "naturals," the ones who somehow know how to teach." -Peter Drucker
  • (Drucker 2007)

Along with many other professions, teaching is primarily based on leadership and communication (Vilhanova 2008). Teachers must have the ability to lead and guide their classroom in a way that promotes controlled and free thinking. It is very important for teachers to be able to communicate effectively, not only to the students but to the parents as well. Communicating to the students is so important to the learning process. If a teacher can not get his/her point across, then it is very possible for the students to not understand the lesson being taught. Communication must be present among, both the teacher and the student. This is where the student can begin to gain trust from the teacher, and vice versa, where the teacher can gain trust from the student (Vilhanova 2008). Gaining each other's trust is very valuable because they are able to rely on each other.

All these aspects and characteristics can only be obtained if it is present in the individuals genes. They can not be taught or learned and that is why, those who possess these innate traits must use them productively or else they would just go to waste.

It's in the Books[edit]

To some individuals, an excellent education and a comprehensive training creates the best foundation in the classroom setting and that natural talent helps but it can't provide for the necessities that makes up an adequate and positive teaching environment. Being good or great at something does not always mean that there will always be passion. People who may not possess a natural talent for teaching, but are determined to still become a teacher, may have more passion that those born with the gift. These individuals would have to work harder for their reward, which shows how driven and committed they truly are.


"...even the most brilliant scientists may not know how to communicate their knowledge to children." -Jay Mathews (Mathews 2002)

The main point for teacher education and training programs is to inform teachers about effective instruction methods that can be very beneficial to improve and make the overall classroom experiences more desirable and more successful (Malikow, 2006 2). Once the teacher training and education is completed, the teachers become higher quality because it allowed teachers to gain more practice and experience. In essence, teachers really do 'make themselves' (Moore, 2004 6).


Teachers' work reflects on the students' work. Studies have shown that teachers, with no means of education training or certification, have a negative influence on students in the classroom. Teachers without this proper training, have a higher percentage of students in their class that scored lower on standardized tests (Mathews 2002). Other studies have revealed that the individuals who received a five-year degree from a teacher education program, tend to stay teaching longer that those who graduated with a four-year degree; also, the individuals with four-year degrees stay teaching longer than those with little or no training at all (Mathews 2002).


According to Education Secretary, Roderick P. Paige, and his teacher quality report, he states that "we now have concrete evidence that smart teachers with solid content knowledge have the greatest effect on student achievement" (Mathews 2002). Well isn't that exactly what teachers strive to accomplish? They want their students to be able to reach their greatest or maximum potential and to get the most out of their education. There is an old saying that parents want what is best for their children. Can't teachers want what is best for their students? The answer is of course, and by spending more time taking extra classes or going through additional educational training, this really underlines how the average teacher can be 'made' into a great teacher.

It's Both[edit]

To the others who fall in the middle, including myself, we believe that great teachers are a combination between the two. Having the qualities, characteristics, and drive in becoming a good teacher is one thing, but taking classes to better educate yourself on how to better your students really takes it over the edge into becoming a great teacher. Who is to say that teachers who seem to be born with this raw, natural talent, couldn't benefit from some type of educational training to reemphasize their strengths and build on their weaknesses.


Teachers are a lot like athletes and artists. All three were born with talents, and those talents will be refined because of the training and performance that comes along with each career (Malikow 1). Even the people that were born with all the traits that would make them an excellent teaching candidate, they still might be missing something. If they do not have the desire, drive, or passion to become a teacher, then these innate traits can be thrown out the window. Proper training and experience will help give advise on different techniques and methods that can be utilized. After teaching for quit some time, the teacher will be able to throw out the methods and techniques that did not work or fix the methods to better suit or accommodate the students. Practice makes perfect!

Quiz[edit]

1. Caring, encouraging, nurturing, showing leadership, and patience ...

a. are innate characteristics that make up a great teacher

b. are qualities that make up a good person

c. are traits that teachers can learn

d. can be taught


2. What is one main point for teacher education and training programs?

a. they learn innate qualities and characteristics that makes them better equipped for working in the classroom

b. they make teachers better role models and they are liked more by their students

c. to inform teachers about effective instruction methods that can be very beneficial to improve and make the overall classroom experiences more desirable and more successful

d. all of the above


3. What did Mr. Sposato do that went above and beyond?

a. he focused most of his attention to the students that really needed it

b. he helped a student's family buy needed clothing when money was scarce

c. he never assigned homework

d. he never gave a 'bad' grade


4. How are teachers similar to athletes and artists?

a. all of them like to exercise on a daily basis

b. all of them took classes on how to draw

c. they were born with talents, and those talents will be refined because of the training and performance that comes along with each career

d. they are determined to do what is right


5. So, are teachers born or made?

a. born

b. both

c. made

d. still under much debate and people have different viewpoints and opinions about it

Resources[edit]

Brokaw, Tom. (2009). Tom Brokaw quotes. BrainyQuote. Retrieved February 8, 2009, from http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/t/tombrokaw105667.html

Drucker, Peter. (2007). Quotations about teachers. The quote garden. Retrieved February 8, 2009, from http://www.quotegarden.com/teachers.html

Malikow, Max. (2006). Are teachers born or made? The necessity of teacher training. National Forum of Teacher Education Journal [Electronic],16 3E. Retrieved February 6, 2009, from http://www.nationalforum.com/Electronic%20Journal%20Volumes/Malikow,%20Max%20Are%20Teachers%20Born%20or%20Made

Mathews, Jay. (2002). Teacher training: too much or not enough? Washingtonpost.com. Retrieved February 8, 2009, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A41591-2002Jul8.html

Moore, Alex. (2004). The good teacher: dominant discourses in teaching and teacher education. New York: RoutledgeFalmer.

Spitz, Julia. (2007). Charles Sposato: a natural-born teacher. The Metrowest Daily News [Electronic]. Retrieved February 8, 2009, from http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/homepage/x1434249505

Vilhanova, Anna. (2008). The teacher as a leader: which qualities make a teacher a leader in the classroom. Humanising Language Teaching [Electronic]. Retrieved February 8, 2009, from http://www.hltmag.co.uk/jan08/sart07.htm

Answers[edit]

1. a

2. c

3. b

4. c

5. d