The Art of Mastery: 9 Skills Master Teachers Possess

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art of mastery
The Art of Mastery – photo credit: Regina Carter, playing via photopin (license)

I had a conversation this week with an educator that I would define as a master teacher. “What,” she asked, “defines mastery in teachers?” Is it years of experience? Self efficacy? Or perhaps a set of specific skills that lend themselves to high achievement for students?

I would say possibly a combination of all three.

Can new teachers really be thought of as masterful? Maybe, but I would bend more toward the thinking that in most cases it takes a few years to attain mastery. I have seen brand new teachers do a terrific job immediately, but they are few and far between.

Certainly there are teachers who have been teaching for many years and still have not risen to this level. How, then, does a mere mortal teacher attain this art of mastery?

9 Skills Master Teachers Possess
  1. A strong understanding of content
  2. The ability to develop and maintain meaningful relationships with students
  3. Understanding of effective classroom management
  4. The ability to analyze data and put a plan in place for every student
  5. reflective nature  that allows the teacher to think about a lesson’s strengths and weaknesses
  6. A willingness to be a leader in the school, serving on committees and mentoring others
  7. The ability to plan and deliver engaging lessons that create an environment for excellence
  8. High expectations for all students, parents, and staff
  9. High growth and/or student achievement for students

So, where do master teachers get these skills?

Certainly we learn content in college. Hopefully we would get some practice in the analysis of data and the art of differentiation. What about the others though?

Teachers develop into master teachers while on the job. They learn from others. They get inspired from watching master teachers work.

What kind of environments are the incubators of these skills? Are you working in such an environment where master teachers are encouraged and nurtured? If not, how can you make changes that will help infuse these skills or at least create opportunities to attain them?

Here are a few ideas for molding master teachers:

  • Encourage teachers to observe each other
  • Require everyone to present to the faculty at some point
  • Use the Google model that gives 20 percent time to create something special and watch the innovation blossom
  • Give teachers time and environments in which to reflect and give feedback to each other
  • Do a strength analysis of your staff and have a strong understanding of who needs additional guidance
  • Celebrate successes and value others’ ideas

To be cliché, nothing breeds success like success. No one wants to be considered a master more that the teachers in your building. Consider  your school culture and see if it is conducive to the creation of master teachers. If it is not, what can you do to change the culture? Be the change; make the change.

Artfully create rockstar-like master teachers.

Be one yourself.

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Cathy Beck

Principal of a dual language IB elementary school. Beck is the co-author of Easy and Effective Professional Development, published by Routledge. She is a professor at both Concordia University and American College of Education. You can reach her on Twitter @cathypetreebeck.

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