So You Think You Can…Teach?

I will admit, I’m a huge fan of So You Think You Can Dance, affectionately abbreviated as SYTYCD. In trying to read an article on teacher education while watching last night’s show, an observation bubbled up: The judges on SYTYCD often speak about a dancer’s potential, and cite this potential for future growth as a reason to select a certain dancer to remain on the show. The converse is also true; wonderful dancers (last week’s loser, Asuka, being a case in point) are often sent home not because they were the worst dancer, but because they aren’t showing that they are growing with the show.

This made me think about teachers (and I don’t just mean K-12, but teachers at all levels), and whether we look at potential for growth when evaluating candidates–or, indeed, if we should do. I think anyone who has ever taught would agree that when you first start out, you’re just trying to keep your head above water. (And hope you don’t screw up the students too badly.) I just wonder if there’s any thought given at various points along the path to teacher-dom to a candidate’s potential for growth–the corollary being, I suppose, potential to become an excellent teacher versus a merely adequate one. [I refuse to use the term “qualified” on general principle.]

On the other hand, looking at potential and growth is a tricky thing. Who would be assessing these qualities? How could they be subjectively assessed? Because while a choreographer’s personal preference and body type and who you worked with in the past are all valid criteria in the world of dance, I don’t see that flying so well in selecting a chemistry teacher. We educators like our objective criteria. We like our rubrics. We like at least the appearance of fairness.

Perhaps it’s just too big a stretch to bring potential for growth or excellence into recruiting, preparing, and hiring teachers. Perhaps I would just like to think that there is room in between our rubrics and criteria referenced assessments for a little bit of subjective softness and talk of personal growth…


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