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Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students

Dat Le, NBCT |

Recently re-released, What Teachers Should Know and Be Able to Do articulates the National Board’s Five Core Propositions for teaching. Similar to medicine’s Hippocratic Oath, the Five Core Propositions are held in common by teachers of all grade levels and disciplines and underscore the accomplished teacher’s commitment to advancing student learning and achievement. This blog focuses on core proposition 2 that states, “Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.”

As part of the committee that worked on revising, What Teachers Should Know and Be Able to Do, I am excited about how it will impact accomplished teaching across the nation. While all Five Core Propositions in this book are equally important to the accomplished teacher’s commitment for advancing student achievement, this blog focuses on the second Core Proposition which focuses on teachers knowing the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.

To be effective in the classroom, accomplished teachers need to have a strong command of the subject matter they teach. Research after research has indicated that pedagogical content knowledge is the basis for effective teaching. However, knowledge is not stagnant. As quickly as information and technology evolves in this day and age, it is essential that teachers stay abreast of evolving trends and developments in their areas of expertise – this is true for what they teach - content – and how they teach it –pedagogical knowledge. Because of this, learning should not be limited to new teachers, but for all teachers regardless of where they are in their career. For the accomplished teacher, this truly means being a life-long learner.

I work in Arlington County, Virginia. In our school division, supporting teachers with professional development and engaging them through professional learning communities has benefited student learning. Whether the teachers are generalists or specialists, they know the fundamental principles and concepts of the content they teach. They constantly seek and share knowledge with one another. They know that learning is a work in progress.

Having the opportunity to visit many science classrooms, I am able to see how teachers demonstrate their content knowledge and convey it to students in many different, creative ways to foster learning. I am fortunate to work with so many accomplished teachers, but more importantly, being in a school division where professional development is a priority and where teachers are constantly engaging in learning.

According to the text, the accomplished teacher, “encourages students to apply their knowledge to new and unfamiliar problems so they can continue exploring and advancing their understanding.” The same exploration must be true for teachers.

For accomplished teachers and for all successful professionals in any field, there is no start and stop to professional learning, but rather it is a continuous process. It is my hope, not only for our school division, but for schools across the nation, that as teachers nurture their students with knowledge and skills, that they seek and find time to nurture their own professional learning and growth. 

Dat Le is the Science Supervisor for Arlington Public Schools. Prior to this position, Dat taught biology and environmental science for middle and high school students. During his teaching career, Dat has received several teaching awards, including the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). Dat has served on numerous standards committees at the district, state and national level. This includes serving on the Virginia Standards of Learning Assessment Science Content Review Committee and the Science Standards Advisory Committee for the College Board. In 2012, Dat served as the co-chair for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) Science Committee which developed the National Board Science Standards, Third Edition. Most recently, Dat served on the standards committee that created the Educators Rising Standards, 2016 edition. He is certified in biology and is a National Board Certified Teacher.

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