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The authors, both longtime educators with a wide variety of classroom experience, divide their study into the "elements" that go into the making of a good teacher: learning, authority, ethics, order, imagination, compassion, patience, character, and pleasure. All teachers have all these attributes to varying degrees; the important thing is how the traits are developed and used to the students' best advantage. In "Learning," for example, the authors explain the importance of mastering the subject that one teaches while continuing to explore it along with one's students. They offer here, as they do at the end of every section, a case study of sorts—a fictionalized teaching situation where a teacher is seen as either manifesting the "element" being examined or failing to live up to the authors' high expectations. In "Learning," a history teacher is disappointed with her presentation of the subject of religion in her American history class. Rather than go on with the curriculum as planned, she decides to devote more time to religion and assigns different areas of the subject to her students, taking an equal amount of additional work on herself. The class becomes so involved in the project that they decide to enter the National History Day competition, which they win. And while the teacher devotes much more of her own time to the class than she would have if she'd dropped the subject of religion after the first failed presentation, her tenacity results in a rewarding exercise for both herself and her students.
An important manual for anyone who teaches or needs to evaluate teachers, such as administrators, school boards, and not least of all, parents.