It seems the entire current philosophy of education is focused on the results and proximate causes of education (i.e. ‘best practices, classroom strategies, etc), not on the ultimate causes. Proximate causes are often focused on during PD sessions, classroom observations, etc because they are confused with being the causes of learning. Perhaps they can help learning take place, but they certainly are not the cause of it. Learning happens inside of someone when they decide to want to exert effort to expand their perspective. It becomes my job as a teacher to provide opportunity for people to make that decision.
So what is the most useful and productive tool the world has ever seen for inspiring others to make that decision? The ultimate cause of great education are impassioned teachers who are stoked to live and learn. Great education starts with enthusiasm for learning in the heart of the teachers themselves. Consider, for example, research professors, at large universities. They would almost always rather be pursuing their own projects and not be bothered with teaching the detestable undergrads. However, they often make some of the best teachers out there! And its not because they care about or have ever even considered ‘best practices’ or effective content delivery techniques (they usually rely on the age old ‘lecture format’). They are effective because they are into what they are learning, and so the undergrads in audience at their lecture can more easily decide to become enthralled with the content themselves. Certainly any college grad can point back to their version of this professor (likely many times over) in their own experience.
In a high school environment, all three main areas of a teacher’s professional existence must be fed. 1. The ‘craft of teaching:’ where it is satisfying to see a class be actually useful to the perspective expansion of the students. 2. The content they are teaching- no matter the subject matter, it is up to the teacher to cultivate a way to be excited about it. 3. The culture of the school: being a part and active contributor of something supportive and awesome.
If a teacher’s three buckets are regularly being filled (or at least, at any given time, 2 of the 3, are kicking) they will be effective, in their part to ultimately provide the best opportunity for students to learn. Best practices be damned!