Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Common sense and the effective teacher

In my last post, I ended the article with a reference to “good old common sense.”  Since hitting the “publish” button, I have been thinking about what that means in education.  Jackson (1986) talks about common sense helping teachers read and appropriately respond to behavioral cues such as:

  • what a person looks like when they want to say something
  • noticing expressions of disbelief
  • recognizing nods of understanding
  • to speak in a clear voice
  • write legibly
  • listen when others speak
  • ask questions when puzzled
  • smile when pleased
  • frown when displeased

There are, of course, many other possible descriptors of common sense that good teachers draw upon.  I am sure you could probably rattle off a few yourself, but I think we can agree that at the very least -

Teachers who have strong tendencies to employ solid common sense are using an essential element to the art of teaching.

But where do teachers learn or at least refine their abilities to use good common sense?  Can common sense actually be developed?

I suggest that good teachers are also good learners.  As learners, these teachers are always seeking opportunities to engage with others and reflect on their practice.  In other words, good teachers need “common” time with other teachers in order to make “sense” out of their own actions and decisions.  Thus, the sum total of a teachers’ exposure to other teachers is, essentially, a means of developing “common sense.”

Conferences, faculty meetings, social networking, etc. all present chances for teachers to engage in building their capacity for common sense in the classroom.  As leaders, administrators should place value on these interactions and work with teachers to remove the barriers that prevent such interactions from taking place.


Jackson, Philip W. (1986). The Practice of Teaching (Chapter 1, On Knowing How to Teach).  Teachers College Press, Columbia University.

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