Marva Collins: Avoiding Mediocrity as a Teacher

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Marva Collins is a teaching success story. Having taught in Alabama then Chicago, she became disillusioned by the repeated failings on the public education system.

She decided to start her own school and within a very short period of time, she became known as an international education success.

Her philosophy of teaching was underpinned by the belief that all parties must approach education from a positive and enthusiastic position.

In her bestselling book, Ordinary Children, Extraordinary Teachers, she writes with passion, on how as teachers we should avoid mediocrity.

And I do think that this was and continues to be a brave yet necessary commentary on the state of the profession.

We have all seen teachers who just turn up and do the bare minimum: no planning, no enthusiasm, no visions, no mission, nothing. And get away with it.

Yet there are inspirational teachers out there who lead the line and put there heart and soul into their vocation.

Here are a few excerpts from Marva Collins book worth reflecting upon.

“…make the poor student good and the good student superior…” OCET, p. 9

“The good ones [teachers] are constantly trying to find answers; the poor ones are constantly making excuses.” OCET, p. 11

“Some teachers think that just what is given to them in the classroom is all there is to be used. These are very poor teachers. You have to go beyond.” OCET, p. 20

“To just read what is given to me in a classroom and not explore other means and not explore other connecting topics, still guarantees failure as a teacher. Learning is everywhere. I think that is the one thing that is missing in the minds of many teachers. Everything in life has knowledge attached to it, and students are just waiting to learn things.” OCET, p. 21




“We can all pay teachers to teach, but how much do you really pay a teacher to care?” A dedicated staff will “take personally the failure of just one child.” OCET, p. 23

A school will only work “because of motivated leadership and dedication from the teachers.” OCET, p. 23

“Students may know nothing, they may be complete illiterates, but they know when we know, and they respect when we know. A good teacher must be more than a 2×4 teacher —bounded by the four walls of a classroom and the two covers of a book. I have a passion for being the very best teacher than I can be.” OCET, p. 27

“I hear teachers and educators complaining about how far a child is behind; what a child doesn’t know…That’s what we’re there for. It’s not a problem. You can see it as a problem, or you can see it as a challenge…you innately have all the right stuff that it takes to make a good teacher, if you eradicate yourself of the idea that these children cannot learn.” OCET, pp. 34-35

“…you can only do one day at a time. You can’t teach a whole year in one day. Prepare to be the very best teacher you can be that one day, in that classroom. Then come home Day One and prepare to be the very best teacher you can be on Day Two.” OCET, p. 40

Have a positive attitude toward teaching. “…think of the power that you possess to manage a whole group of children. You can bend them like a piece of putty. You can make them what you want.” OCET, p. 42

“…teach every day. Do whatever profession you’re in, do it every day, every moment, as if the whole world were watching. I teach as if Jesus Christ Himself were in that classroom. And when you do that, you’re bound to see great things happening.” OCET, p. 43

“Each of us can make a difference. Each of us has what it takes to make a difference —and that’s a passion for being excellent in what we do …All of us are what we are, and are where we are, because of the excellence of somebody before us.” OCET, p. 44

The “miracle” of teaching is “…dedication, common-sense, determination, and a love for our students.” OCET, p. 109

“… most human beings are as good as they are because some unknown teacher cared enough to continue polishing until a shiny luster came shining through; because some teacher cared enough to remove the previous fetid tags and labels of failure from their psyches.” OCET, p. 152

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