A brief comment on Teacher Efficacy

Working in great schools has revealed to me in a variety of forms what high levels of strong teacher efficacy can do for students.  As a leader of teachers, I am compelled to nurture this sense in all members of the school community as a teacher would work to instill similar efficacy in his/her students.  The question of what would be the biggest boost to a teacher’s sense of efficacy has a number of layers. A teacher can possess a strong personal teaching efficacy, where he/she believes strongly in his/her ability/capability to affect student cognitive and affective development, but that would represent only part of the composite efficacy requisite for total teacher efficacy.  Also requisite are a high level of general teacher efficacy, in that there strongly exists the belief that teachers in general have the aforementioned effect on student development; institutional efficacy, wherein lies the belief that the institution (school, program, department) is having the positive effect on student experiences and a high level of self-efficacy beyond the classroom.  This composite of teacher efficacy is complex, so to identify a single entity that would be “the biggest boost” is equally complex.  As a veteran educator of over 20 years, I can elucidate a very simple response to this complex question with a brief anecdote that I have shared over the years with colleagues and potential employers.  During previous job searches, I have been asked the following question:
“What is your greatest highlight or moment as an educator”
My response was the same each time, and it also represents the answer to this highly complex question about efficacy.
Every day when I walked from my classroom to the athletic fields, I crossed the upper school quad areas where many students that I had taught, and many who I had not but had gotten to know other ways, would be socializing between classes. Invariably, I stopped for conversations- about school, English, an assignment of great success, athletics, arts, family etc.  These were not forced interactions, nor were they initiated by me- they were genuine. Students who had success in my class, were translating that success into success in other classes, which provided me with professional efficacy. Students who were continuing to excel academically likewise boosted institutional and general efficacy.  Students’ interest in sharing their experiences, while also showing an interest by asking me about my family manifested high self-efficacy.  Those moments are invaluable- and exemplify the key to high levels of teacher efficacy requisite for a school to provide great experiences for its students.  Ultimately, the central catalyst has been the relationship that I shared with my students while they were in my class, and beyond.   These strong relationships directly boosted the efficacy of all involved.  Once again, relationships are at the center.

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