Most teachers enter their profession with the hope of making a difference. And they’re in luck! They do make a difference. They shape the minds and habits of the students in their classrooms. This very process is highlighted by an example used in the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg (a great choice for summer reading):
In the 1970s, a man named Paul O’Neill, then serving as the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget in Washington, D.C., was commissioned by President Johnson to analyze how the government was spending money on healthcare.
As he and his team were analyzing the data, one of the first trends that stood out to him was the high infant mortality rate in the U.S. This trend was especially shocking since the U.S. was at the time one of the wealthiest nations in the world.
By asking question after question, O'Neal's team eventually discovered that the root of the problem was that many teachers lacked the training in biology that was needed to qualify them to teach nutrition to teenage girls—a course that was needed to prevent the malnourishment of mothers (the problem identified as the chief cause of the high infant mortality rate). By changing the way teachers were trained in colleges and universities to prepare them to teach biology (and thus, nutrition), we now have an infant mortality rate that is 68% lower than when O’Neill was first assigned his task.
NOTE: This story was rewritten from the original phrasing with information being pulled from the following pages of The Power of Habit: 102, 118-119.
Teacher training was the solution to the high infant mortality rate. A solution that initially seemed so disconnected from the problem. Although, in reality, teacher training is connected to every problem. Teachers have power. They disseminate the information that shapes the minds and habits of children across the world. When information needs to be shared, teachers are the best way to deliver that information on a mass scale. That’s a lot of power.
If teachers can be trained to properly inform and instruct students on important concepts, changes can occur. In fact, in many cases, the root cause of a problem is a lack of awareness. With proper training, teachers can deliver the awareness that students need to make real changes—now and in the future.
Like Paul O’Neill, at Reading Horizons we realized that the best way for us to prevent reading problems was providing teacher training on effective, research-based strategies for teaching reading to beginning readers, struggling readers, and English language learners. To this end, we provide every educator with 30-days of free access to our online training course, the Reading Horizons Online Reading Workshop.
Regardless of the quality of instruction teachers provide: they are shaping the minds and habits of their students. Through professional development and training this power can be refined to maximize the good it accomplishes.