The next time you read a book or a blog written by a teacher-author, here’s something to remember: the reason that things work in their class is likely just as much a function of their credibility with students as it is a function of the quality of the things they do in their class.
What I mean is that when, say, Penny Kittle recommends reading/writing workshop in a high school classroom, one of the reasons why it works literal miracles in her room is because she’s a master teacher who is resoundingly good at her job. She has mastered the fundamental pieces of credibility: care, competence, passion, repair. She can demonstrate her credibility in a lesson, in a week of lessons, and all year long. And the word of her teacher power gets out to the students. And what results is a good kind of snowball, where more and more people in the community believe you're a good teacher, and this in turn makes it easier for you to keep impoving (after all, it's motivating to have people believe in you). This is why teacher credibility is the number one way to start improving student motivation in your room, bar none — wise are those who study it!
This doesn’t mean the reading/writing workshop approach isn’t good — in fact, it’s far better than good! Reading/writing workshop is brilliant, and if Penny Kittle began teaching courses at my high school, I'd be the first to sign up, and I'd want all my children to sign up, too. It just means that the approach isn’t the only factor playing a role in the motivation and growth of her — or my, or your — students. Credibility is, too. So take pains to think as clearly as you can about teacher credibility — what it is, how judgments of teacher credibility are formed in the hearts of students — even as you’re taking pains to learn reading/writing workshop, or modeling-based science, or “ditch the textbook” (a “baby with the bathwater” notion, in my opinion), or presidential fitness tests in physical education.
This is one reason why I love focused approaches to the work of a teacher — doing a few things enables us to get better at the few things faster (and happier) than we would if we tried doing a dozen.
For a good primer on teacher credibility, see Chapter 2 of These 6 Things, or register for my free seminar on the topic next Wednesday night at 9pm EST, or enroll in the Student Motivation Course today.