The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching

This blog post was written by Kelli Wohlgamuth. Kelli is a FIP Specialist for the Southeast Region, a part of a regional support system available to help your LEA advance the use of formative instructional practices.

When was the last time you read a book about teaching that made you feel excited about what you do in the lives of children? A book that spoke to you, connected all the dots for you, and even gave you a focus to make it easy to put what you have read into practice? Well, I just read such a book. I was really drawn to what Bryan Goodwin and Elizabeth Ross Hubbell were sharing in their book, The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching: A Checklist for Staying Focused Every Day.

Over the past three years I’ve met some incredible teachers who, despite their passion, have gotten lost in all the reform efforts and can’t seem to find a way forward. This book, which has a strong alignment with the core components of FIP, helps teachers stay focused on what is important by using a “checklist” strategy. Checklist items include:

  • Use standards to guide every learning opportunity
  • Ensure students set personal learning targets for each lesson
  • Make performance expectations clear
  • Measure understanding against high expectations
  • Engage student interest with every lesson
  • Interact meaningfully with every student
  • Use feedback to encourage effort
  • Create an oasis of safety and respect in my classroom
  • Make the most of every minute; teach bell to bell
  • Help students develop deep knowledge
  • Coach students to mastery
  • Help students do something with their learning

Helping teachers align what they do daily is essential to move student learning forward. Educators have a responsibility to build environments that encourage risk taking, support learners at all levels, and give opportunities for students to have the right feedback so they have something to own.  It is not “one more thing we have to do.” It is what is really at the heart of what you do every day.

I have been hearing teachers say, “Our students don’t really own their learning, or they don’t care.”  It’s easy for teachers and leaders to place fault on the students, not realizing that student ownership actually starts with teachers. Teaching is a complex process and we need strategies or a “checklist” that keeps teachers focusing on the most critical or essential elements. The “12 touchstones” allow teachers to keep a focus on the “big ideas” of what it takes to be a great teacher: the ability to be demanding, supportive, and intentional.