Postcards from New York: What makes Uncommon Schools possible?

Improving Teaching

It should be dead easy to spot a new teacher, shouldn’t it…?  The question hadn’t really occurred to me; had it done, I’d have assumed it should be obvious: a slight gap in subject knowledge perhaps, a struggle with a tricky group or a minor glitch in planning.  In my previous post, discussing classrooms in three Uncommon Schools in New York City, I suggested they are aptly named: their classrooms offer both a distinct subjective experience and exceptional outcomes.  Another feature which stood out was my struggle to identify new teachers.  After watching parts of an apparently flawless lesson, I learned that this was the teacher’s first year with Teach for America.  In two schools, I found myself asking to be guided towards the least and most-experienced as I tried to distinguish between them.

How can I explain my struggle to identify experience?  Explanations could focus on my limited skill as an observer, or the…

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