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There's No Such Thing as a Super Teacher

Surprise: The expectations set by movies like "Dangerous Minds" are totally unrealistic.

After 10 years in the classroom—teaching everything from elementary school to adult education classes—Roxanna Elden has seen it all. Now working as a writing teacher at Hialeah High School in Miami, Elden, who is the author of See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers By Teachers a humorous survival book for new teachers, is on a mission to bust the super teacher myth for good.


In the TED-style talk above, Elden told attendees at the recent Education Writers Association conference that the super teacher myth—which she aspired to in her first year—is driven by the media and politicians. They promote the narrative that teachers must be a "force of nature" that "does not need support from colleagues, does not need a full night's sleep, and with the right training, doesn't really need experience."

As a result, when teaching starts to get tough—as it inevitably does—all the "good intentions and training" a teacher's received can only take her so far. The result is that half of all teachers leave the profession within five years. In low-income communities, Elden says, half quit within three years. That means students who really need a seasoned teacher who won't be completely disillusioned by a lesson going wrong are left in the hands of neophytes.

Elden goes on to share the three things teachers actually need instead of the super teacher myth and passes along plenty of anecdotes from her time in the classroom that are sure to make you laugh out loud, especially if you've ever been in a classroom. So teachers, stop berating yourselves for not measuring up to Michelle Pfieffer's character in Dangerous Minds. Hollywood made her up. She doesn't exist.

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