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CAN ANYONE LEARN TO BECOME A GREAT TEACHER? This essay was posted to my teaching blog on February 17, 2015. - teaching.blogspot.com/ A few weeks ago my dean sent me a note containing a simple question: Can anyone learn to become a great teacher? Unfortunately, I did not have a great answer and did little more than ramble around in response. It is a question that I have thought about often during the intervening weeks. Is it possible for anyone to develop into a great teacher or is that goal only available to a chosen few? What do you think? If you have thoughts, I would love to hear them. Let me start the conversation by asking a different question: Can anyone learn to become a great coach in pro football? In the NFL, great football coaches get paid millions. It is truly an exciting profession. You would think thousands of potential great candidates would be available. And, yes, there are a few great coaches. Both coaches in the Super Bowl this year probably qualify. Bill Belichick of New England meets the definition as does Pete Carroll of Seattle. They have been proven winners for a long time. But there are not many other names that come leaping forward. It is a big world and pro football is huge. Yet I can come up with just two names of great coaches. Several other people certainly qualify as good but the jump from good to great is always hard. In truth, it has to be difficult to get 50-60 individuals to play at close to maximum capacity over an entire season. My guess is that guys like Belichick and Carroll probably spend close to 100 hours per week thinking about nothing other than how to maximize the potential of their teams. And, even then, as Pete Carroll proved at the end of the Super Bowl, they can still do things that cause people to be critical. Why are there not more great coaches? I think it is especially difficult to be great when you are responsible for a whole group of people. Every time you add another person to the mix, you increase the complexity of the process. One person working by himself (or herself) can be great. Bob Dylan, Pablo Picasso, Philip Roth, Maria Callas, Albert Einstein, William Shakespeare. Yes, in each case, other people were involved with these folks but when things got
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  • Spring '14
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