“The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching” is Not So Good

Have you seen the list of 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching? Looks like there're some problems with it!I just found a list on Pinterest called “The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching” based on the book of the same title. Of course I had to read it.

And of course, I was incensed.

One third of the list is good. One third is okay. And one third is deplorable.

And all of it is centered on the wrong person.

The Good Parts

Apparently the list is broken up into three sections:

  1. Be Demanding
  2. Be Supportive
  3. Be Intentional

The “Be Supportive” section is the good part. (Note: I’m discussing these out of order.)

Item 5 – I engage student interest with every lesson.

Item 6 – I interact meaningfully with every student.

Item 7 – I use feedback to encourage effort.

Item 8 – I create an oasis of safety and respect in my classroom.

This should be the whole list. If we do these four, we’re pretty darn good teachers.

The Okay Parts

Here’s the “Be Intentional” part, along with my comments on each:

Item 9 – I make the most of every minute.

This scares me. If I’m trying to make the most of every minute, I may not be allowing learning to happen. Push too fast and I’ll push curiosity and wonder right out of my students.

Item 10 – I help students develop deep knowledge.

Our job is to help them find which types of knowledge they want to go deeper in and then support them in that. Trying to get a student to develop deep knowledge in every area will result in shallow knowledge in all areas.

Item 11- I coach students to mastery.

Again, do they really need mastery? Or is it okay if they are good enough? (And YES, sometimes good enough is, well, good enough. Even in math.)

Item 12 – I help students do something with their learning.

I’m sounding like a broken record here. It’s our job to help them see what can be done and allow them to follow through if they’re inspired. Not to force them to do it.

The Deplorable Parts

The “Be Demanding” section is the offensive part.

Item 1- I use standards to guide every learning opportunity.

So you’re telling me that if a learning opportunity comes along and there’s no standard for it, I should skip it? I don’t think so.

Item 2 – I ensure students set personal learning objectives for each lesson.

Holy cow! Each lesson?

For every lesson I teach, I should stop everything and help students figure out a personal learning objective for it?

How many different objectives can there be? And are they truly personal? Or are they copying of each other (or me) because they have no idea what the personal learning objective might be for “Fluently add and subtract within 20 using mental strategies”?

Item 3 – I peel back the curtain and make my performance expectations clear.

How ironic is it that you’re using a mixed metaphor to illustrate clarity?

Poor use of rhetoric aside, should learning really be based on what OUR performance expectations are?

Item 4 – I measure understanding against high expectations.

This comes back to the age-old argument regarding measuring understanding. I won’t beat that horse anymore. At least not here.

Who’s this list about anyway?

Seems it’s very focused on the teacher. I certainly understand that we’re all built with the “what’s in it for me” attitude. But as teachers, the focus should really be on the student.

A list of “I” statements for teaching seems biased in the wrong direction.

How about you?

How do you feel about this list? Am I off base and overly sensitive? Or am I rightfully annoyed?

Share your thoughts in the comments and invite others to share too: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest.

This post may contain affiliate links. When you use them, you support us so we can continue to provide free content!

3 Responses to “The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching” is Not So Good

  1. Thanks for the review of this book! I can totally see what you are saying in looking deeper at the 12 touchstones. I laughed out loud when you pointed out the mixed metaphor to illustrate clarity! Part of me feels like the book is at least an attempt to help the teachers do the best they can to make sure every student is better off for having been in their room.

    • You’re likely right, Jen. I figured they were trying to help teachers work within what they are already forced to do. But it still troubles me.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Did you read the book? I think your analysis lacks depth and makes me wonder if you read the details and research behind each of the touchstones. I have to wonder why being demanding or intentional are not on your list of to dos as a teacher.

Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.