10 Top Educators of All Times


The Internet loves lists. Many times you will find something like: The 10 Most…, The Top…, or Best of…. In a recent survey published on the Internet (1) Former President Barak Obama was ranked  12th on a list of best Presidents of the USA. This was done by historians. So why not have a top list of educators as well? It would be a wonderful initiative to start an International Year of Education. Did you know that the last one, instigated by UNESCO, was in 1970? Almost 50 years ago (2) . Time for a recurrence. Great pedagogues have been there in all times, innovating and renewing what we teach, and learn,  the way we build our schools and arrange our classrooms. It is they who gave us direction in how we educate from a young age till late in our lives. So who are they who framed an important and substantial part of our life? Some names comes immediately to mind, others may sound less familiar, or are even unknown to a greater audience. In a preparation for such a survey or poll of Top Educators of All Times a list of nominees, say The Top 10, would be helpful. What to think of: (not yet a ranking or priority listing! – that is for others to decide).

.. Socrates: for bringing us the important tool of questioning and keep on asking, both as a means for teachers and students.

..Comenius: who gave us the textbook containing illustrations (Orbis Pictus) to visualize and explicate better what we learn.

.. Pestalozzi. He was one of the first to center on the child as a learner and brought interest and motivation of the learner to the forefront of teaching.

.. Montessori. She helped us to modify and differentiate instruction to the level and pace of the learner.

These names may have set their marks on collective memory and also can be recognized in for instance the names of our schools.

But let’s continue with some less obvious, but still hugely influential pedagogues:

.. Bell & Lancaster. These innovators shaped the face of our classrooms, introducing the sitting arrangement facing up towards the blackboard with the teacher up front (not so popular anymore but still globally adopted).

.. Makarenkov. This Russian educator during Soviet times who renewed education in making it practice oriented, stressing activity and hands on involvement of learners.

.. Dewey. The American innovator of education who immensely influenced generations of educators with his ideas. His project method designed instruction in a completely different way.

..an Nazzam. This Arab poet and originator of Madrasa schools recognized the importance of memorization and the place of rehearsal in education.

.. Ellen Key. A Swedish feminist activist who put the child on the agenda of education and advocated the child centered approach

.. Fannie Williams. She was the force behind education for the young children, at kindergarten age, and health care to be able to participate in education.

There should be an extra and prominent slot for the ‘forgotten educator’  as well;  the silent one, the one that teaches and educates now and forever, all the time. That is to say the good teachers who work daily in our schools doing their utmost to help the ones entrusted to them to have good education



  1. http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/all-time-best-president-united-states-rankings-235149

2. http://www.un.org/en/sections/observances/international-years/

A Joy Forever

untitled-1Strange, a lot of adults don’t like to read, a lot of kids too, while reading is said to be ‘a joy forever’ (1). Books left untouched, stories not revealed, it seems a waste. Like most things of beauty (Keats again) they must be discovered.  And with most explorative journeys it is best to have a guide or mentor nearby. By implication you could say ‘not reading’ is to blame on lack of proper guidance (teaching if you like).  To become a joy you need to have the skill first, the fluency and flow in reading a story, not muddling through the words in a text. This requires practice, and of course, lots of it. Again, it is handy to have a guide or teacher nearby: to stimulate practice, to provide corrective feedback from time to time, to assess progress and praise mastery. As with most practice, better start early. At home, for instance; no, at best. Here lies the crucial strain – it is done far too less (2). Despite the numerous studies and tips that inform parents about reading at home and the joy that comes from it both for parent and kid. Where lies the wretchedness?

It is Time. A study on reading at home using a parent apprenticeship program showed the willingness of parents but also indicated as main trouble in keeping up the reading schedule a lack of time. There were also signs of inadequacy of pedagogy (children who became stressed by overly corrective guidance) but the main concern was having not sufficient opportunity to read together.

Who is to blame? A blog like this is hardly a punitive spot to regulate parental behavior but the excuse of lack of time is just a way of setting priorities erroneously; as if you are saying: reading at home comes down on my list. At such a moment the ‘joy forever’ argument comes in – it really pays off to engage in reading together (3). Once in place reading together may ignite all kinds of great pedagogies between parent and child: making flipbooks, story imaging, and making fantasy scripts. And so on.


Nancy Flanagan Knapp (2016) Reading Together: A Summer Family Reading Apprenticeship Program for Delayed and Novice Readers, Literacy Research and Instruction, 55:1, 48-66, To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19388071.2015.1099767



  1. http://www.online-literature.com/keats/463/
  2. http://www.k12reader.com/reading-at-home-simple-strategies-for-creating-strong-readers/
  3. http://www.allstudentscanshine.com/


Influencing People


Wouldn’t it be wonderful when people would actually do what you tell them to do? Well, of course not. It may be a leadership sigh or wishful dream but ultimately it would turn against an effective change. Frankly, it’s impossible to yell your way to success. So, what would it take going together into a desired direction? Is it perhaps by the People’s Will, establishing a kind of populist social contract (what Rousseau -1- had in mind in his version of democracy)? That would essentially mean a ruling of the loudest voices. Or is it better to call in Leviathan in an effort to silence voices and follow the leader for the benefit and safeguard of all (2). The ancient citizens of Athens knew it could be beneficial to have a dictator from time to time to clear the skies. To run a country or a school for that matter requires a careful way of influencing people for the benefit of all – it is a leadership obligation and a responsibility to which they are accountable. Some leaders are good at influencing people and others are simply appalling. Now, book shelves cannot hold the weight of books on leadership and how to get things done, but still it is energizing to keep the key message flourishing: it is all about how to influence people.

A study on leadership styles in different school settings showed some nice examples of what can happen with certain ways of influencing on actual change in teachers. It turned out that informing the thinking and sharing the practice of others were essential. That is to say: through conversation among members explicate and discuss to convince the ‘other’ of the worth of a proposed change. This led the authors to make a distinction between ‘influencing’ and ‘change’ in which influencing is open and transcending, and precedes change of actions. A stress on change without influencing would be really counterproductive.

But often leaders forget this simple message in a hurry to ‘accomplish things’; alas, a ‘first things first’ mentality will get you nowhere (3). Reinterpreting the outcomes of the study one could point to the real meaning of ‘leading’ which is counter to a rushing towards some end but instead far more a ‘shepherding’ of participants to get somewhere together. Put differently, it not so much ‘messaging’ what makes a good leader but ‘assessing opportunities’ to make headway.


The teacher leadership process: Attempting change within embedded systems Kristy S. Cooper, Randi N. Stanulis, Susan K. Brondyk,  Erica R. Hamilton, Michael Macaluso, Jessica A. Meier Journal of  Educational Change (2016) 17:85–113

DOI 10.1007/s10833-015-9262-4



1 http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7994.Jean_Jacques_Rousseau
2 http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/leviathan/summary.html
3  https://www.google.nl/search?q=first+things+first%E2%80%99+&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b-ab&gfe_rd=cr&ei=DTKYWM7xFKqN8QfLyoOYCg#q=first+things+first+lyrics



Learning For Meaning

tree ‘ Sed vitae discimus’ , a famous and widely found citation attributed to Seneca (a Roman Stoic philosopher around 65 AD). It says: “it’s life from which we learn, understand” . It is taken from a letter of correspondence  on ethical issues with Lucillus, and actually it was Lucillus, who took this position. Seneca opposed to it and alternatively coined Sed scholae discimus (from ‘…’ we learn, understand). The term ‘scholae’, however, has several meanings:  investigation, teaching, discourse, and also school.

Now why all this explanation as a start? Firstly, because the citation has been (mis)used enormously, secondly, it has been interpreted from a great many perspectives very differently (1), and thirdly the issue lies at the heart of teaching and schooling: i.e.,  how can education provide meaningful learning. To tease you as a reader a bit more with Latin: Seneca stated as well ‘Vita sine litteris mors’, (‘Life without ‘..’  is dead’); again litteris may mean several things: education, extensive reading, but also comprehension.  Seneca thus favored schooling, education as a meaning making activity above what otherwise would remain a wide variety of impressions.

Armed with this erudite knowledge we may appreciate the outcomes of a study on relevancy of service learning for experiencing a meaningful educative time. Service learning deploys a form of practical education in which what has been taught is applied and adopted in real life authentic situations. The Chinese study compared a service learning treatment with regular teaching and found substantial, positive effect on problem solving ability, and behavioral engagement in students. It was concluded then that teachers should provide students with authentic, ill-structured problems to promote engagement and transfer (2).

What would Seneca have said? Probably that authentic experiences without proper knowledge would be futile, to which Lucillus might respond that knowledge without proper embeddedness in veracity is empty. On par, again. We therefore cannot solve this bipolar opposition. However, the study does reveal an interesting opt out. It found that classroom behavioral engagement of students mediated the effects, which more or less means that students who took an active part and were enthusiastically involved took most out of the teaching activity offered. I.e., it is not so much what you learn but more how you learn that matters to be it considered meaningful. Meaningful learning has much to do with being able to relate to the things you learn. So Seneca was right after all by saying; Vita sine litteris mors (‘A life without “learning” [is] dead’).


The Effects of Service Learning on Student Problem Solving: The Mediating Role of Classroom Engagement Fangfang Guo, Meilin Yao, Cong Wang, Wenfan Yan, and Xiaoli Zong. Teaching of Psychology 2016, Vol. 43(1) 16-21

sagepub.com/ DOI: 10.1177/0098628315620064



  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non_scholae_sed_vitae
  2. http://plpnetwork.com/2011/04/21/what-do-we-mean-by-authentic-learning/


Effects Of Time

beeldTime heals, time flies, time will tell (1). School time may not abide to all of these associations that exist with the word ‘Time’ ;  nonetheless it is definitely  a period of time of huge importance and with major impact on our life. So, does it effect last? The school building, the teachers we had, the peers we played with, this all fades away slowly over time. But still we can recall some of them. A recollection of lived through experiences can be confronting sometimes, especially when school time was not a joyful era. Most of us, however, rate their school time as a positive time (2), looking back with satisfaction. School time is both an academic time as well as a social time: you learn together. Later on in life unfortunately “learning together” gets scarcer. For its academic part our recall of what was taught and mastered will decay over time: How to do fractions again? What is exactly a Palindrome? Where on earth lies Armenia? As for its social share a lot depends on time itself. It turns out that with age feelings of identity with school time increase.

At least, that is one of the outcomes of a study linking length of time and school satisfaction. Three groups of alumni could be identified all having different attitudes towards their school time. Those having strong ties remained academically involved (with additional contacts and extended studies); then there were those with weak ties; in time their positive attitude towards the old school increased. And lastly, there were those with no ties disconnecting from the school over time altogether.

Apart from a school’s interest in setting up alumni policies (3) these findings tell us that with the passage of time the influence of identity with a school on students’ loyalty increases (as was the case for university alumni in this study but why not for previous education as well). A lot may be forgotten (academically) but school time is an investment in a long term relationship. It may be realized from time to time by teachers and could be revived in student attitudes that school time engagement ties you up for a long time.


The Effects of Passage of Time on Alumni Recall of ‘Student Experience’ by Nicole Koenig-Lewis, Yousra Asaad, Adrian Palmer, and Elina Petersone, Higher Education Quarterly, Volume 70, No. 1, January 2016, pp 59–80 DOI: 10.1111/hequ.12063



  1. http://hubpages.com/education/phrases-with-the-word-time
  2. http://oecdeducationtoday.blogspot.nl/
  3. http://idealistcareers.org/college-grads-how-to-connect-with-alumni-and-find-potential-opportunities/

Life Is The House You Live In


Hmm? A visit starts with the front door, of course. It is the face of the house for everyone to see. May be it is polished and well kept, or will it show the wear and tear of all that went through? Then, let’s skip the hallway and go straight to the living room, the ‘parlour’. This is the place of relaxation built up over the year with  stuff you feel comfortable with. Not always does everything in it fit well together but one tries. At least it is filled with mostly good memories. Home interior design does want you to take action and make smaller or bigger plans to refurbish the place but as often it can wait for a while. More and more the kitchen takes over in interest. After all it is the spot were daily activities come together, talks steam up the atmosphere in the house. The kitchen has become truly the central arena of life and living in the house.  From time to time a piece falls to the floor but easily cleaned for those who run a tight organized home. After work has been done the senses move upstairs. Different schedules run against each other on the stairs. Those who can wait will triumph nonetheless. After the stairs separate worlds are deployed. Bedrooms and bathrooms are individual places of rest and restauration, which one needs to be there. Finally getting peace of mind, or alternatively, worrying about coming things ahead.

Since this is supposed to be a blog on teaching and school life let’s redirect the metaphor to teachers. “Teaching, for teachers, is the house they live in”. How would that turn out?






Who’s The Best


Almost about everything you will find a contest to point out who or what is the best: miss world; top best cook, champion darts throwing, or award prize winner arm wrestling, even the fastest shrimp peeler . So why not nominate the world’s best teacher. Yes, it can (1). The top finalists have been selected (Dec 13, 2016). One needs, of course, to have a lot in store to become that exceptional. Why not take a moment to reproduce what you would consider a sound criterion…. The organizing academy thinks of things like: achieving learning outcomes, innovative instructional practices, outside recognition of achievements in the classroom and beyond; and also helping children become global citizens, and peculiarly enough: Encouraging other teachers to stay in the profession (2) . Probably there could have been a lot more to look for the best from the best – the list you were just making may evidence that. The exercise or (con)test even might suggest we know what it takes to be a good, excellent teacher but we don’t (3).. The things with these lists is it depends on who you ask. Try by reversing the list of good criteria into one of bad teaching criteria. It probably leads to a whole different set of considerations.

So. Lets’ ask teachers. In day-to-day teaching a lot comes down to TSR. Having good Teacher Student Relationships. A recent study indicated that for teachers (and students as well) it is crucially important to have comfortable interactive relationships with students in the classroom. Teacher self efficacy, fun in working with students, experiencing no fear or anxiety in getting good learning outcomes (actually all are affecting the criteria considered in the contest) were  dependent upon TSR.

There is a certain danger to these lists – they tend to become reified or separate from what is happening in real classrooms and disconnected from what drives teaching. Teachers learn to live up to these standards in order to comply, forgetting what is real (4). It may seem a mundane view to ask teachers to be always aware of improvements to their teaching regularly. Probably a more sound approach than wanting to comply to lists of teaching excellence.


Gerda Hagenauer & Tina Hascher & Simone E. Volet (2015) Teacher emotions in the classroom: associations with students’ engagement, classroom discipline and the interpersonal teacher-student relationship Eur J Psychol Educ (2015) 30:385–403

DOI 10.1007/s10212-015-0250-0



  1. http://www.globalteacherprize.org/
  2. http://www.globalteacherprize.org/judging-criteria/
  3. http://languagegoesonholiday.blogspot.nl/2011/11/evidence-of-teaching-excellence.html
  4. http://psychjobsearch.wikidot.com/forum/t-632105/evidence-of-teaching-excellence-teaching-statement


Single Learning


Imagine yourself in a fantastic world, a Neverland or Wonderland for a short moment to be either a Peter Pan or Alice in Wonderland (up to you). You picture yourself as either not wanting to grow up or instead as eager to discover new realms. How then would you go about documenting and reporting your journey? What would you note down and what discard, what would be grasped as noteworthy and what left aside. Peters’ collected evidence probably would look very different from Alice’s. Let’s take Peter’s listing for example. No doubt it will reveal dangers encountered, connecting with friends, and talking a lot about plans to consider. Adventurous Alice’s list however would tell about riddles, questions, and astonishments about ever changing environments. Admitted, Neverland is not the same world as Wonderland; so, what should be noted would differ but as a learning journey the trajectory of Peter and Alice would completely diverge. In the classroom world we also ask learners to pen down their learning trajectories in so called portfolios; in the digital classroom of course in e-portfolios. They are collections of evidence (1), gathered preferably in a self-determined way. What report do they give?

A study conducted in Vietnam investigated student portfolio use over a period of time and effects on motivation and self-regulation. Effects were positive, as often noted, but more of interest is portfolio use itself. What is striking is the rise of the evaluative activity of students (checking whether they did well according to their own standard) and the lowering of acceptance of feedback (listening to others). Portfolio use was for only 3% of the time linked with discussion about content with others (peers, teachers).

One might wonder: a classroom world with many Peters’ and Alices’ out there on their own? Admitted, portfolios are personal documents but intended for being used as a learning tool that will cover a shared domain of content and curriculum. One might add emphatically; the whole purpose of the portfolio is making individual learning accomplishments visible and tangible and definitely to be shared, and discussed (Why otherwise make one). In that respect the turn of a learning trajectory over time towards a private, closed experience is unfitting. Moereover, if learning is a travel both Peter and Alice would need a guide.


Lap Trung Nguyen  & Mitsuru Ikeda , The effects of ePortfolio-based learning model on student selfregulated learning Active Learning in Higher Education2015, Vol. 16(3) 197–209

sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav  DOI: 10.1177/1469787415589532



  1. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1468-2419.00127/abstract


The Third Voice


The German idiom contains a great expression: ‘Der Dritte im Bunde’,  which literately means something like: “a third party involved”;  but as with many expressions the German saying comes with an implicit meaning  which in this case is referring to an, in  general, positive force acting in between two other parties. A kind of bridging or mediation, so to speak. Another layer of meaning is that it is considered to be a hidden, silent voice. There would be certainly an interest in making such a third voice explicit or known. Now, enough about expressions. Let’s talk about relationships. Mediating forces can do a lot of good provided they are overt in aims and knowledgeable in actions (1).  Consequently they need to be certified, or at least warranted. Imagine if the third voice would be flawed; damage is beyond repair. Moving away from mediational voices in areas like marriage, or legal and public affairs one might wonder how a third voice operates among teachingaffairs and on educational arguments. More specifically, could research claim to be a mediator in the discussions among teachers?

Anything to say about this matter has already been said, to be honest (2). Still, it remains worthwhile to bring in some research findings on the matter. An empirical study gauged the use of research findings by teachers and as it turned out teachers made (sparsely) use of the conceptual underpinnings of research that they knew about in the debates among their colleagues. It was meant to strengthen their way of arguing and their position in defending or promoting a stance on teaching

Who had expected otherwise. Research as a ‘Dritte im Bunde’. It may not seem much to some (e.g. 2) but it truly is a privileged and influential locus a mediating force can occupy. It honors the position of teachers as professionals in action.  It adds to the arguments in situ, not by overruling them, but, as a closely connected voice, making arguments more reasonable (not justified though). Research is frankly a searchlight to professionals.


Tim Cain (2015) Teachers’ engagement with research texts: beyond instrumental, conceptual or strategic use, Journal of Education for Teaching, 41:5, 478-492,

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02607476.2015.1105536



  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mediation
  2. https://www.edutopia.org/teacher-development-research-keys-success


A Spark Of Genius


sparkSuppose you’ve got a great idea, and since it feels OK you start working on it; right? Ideas precede activity, or can it be the other way around? Can activity, i.e., trying hard, lead to great ideas? Lots of brain puzzling thoughts but nevertheless important ones. Imagine a student learning, grabbing a still unfamiliar phenomenon, say designing a toy robot, or writing a poem, for instance. How to proceed? We cannot be all Isaac Newton, laying under a tree. Ideas do not come by themselves; so, do you need genius or is it hard work trying to solve the issue? Creativity research does not help us here much; there is a serious divide between ‘inspirationalist’ and ‘productionalists’ (1). Since we cannot be great minds all the time, it would be helpful when at least, say in school learning, we learn to discover the yet unknowns our ‘own’ way. Therefore the activity-to-ideas notion would seem advantageous whereas the ideas-to-production notion probably is less favorable in grasping new insights (2).

To help teachers to choose an approach in their teaching of new understanding a study on use of metacognition in creativity tasks gives some indications on tracks to follow. Drawing from a cognitive-creative sifting model, which intends to bridge the abovementioned divide by the use of metacognitive skills (reflection, monitoring, planning) the study found that 70% of task success was explained by applying (domain specific) knowledge. So clear support for the knowledgeable, low road approach over the high road of genius. Digging deeper into an issue based on the knowledge resource available; that’s what it takes – one could say a truly teaching embedded approach.

Still, a feeling of uneasiness remains. Why do certain great ideas come suddenly, out of the blue, actually while deliberately not(!) thinking on the task at hand. While doing something completely different (ironing is a good one) unexpectedly you get the greatest ideas on topics you occupied yourself with in vain while trying so hard. There needs to be a spark of genius beyond the inevitable action we put into a problem, apparently.


Jeb S. Puryear (2015) Metacognition as a Moderator of Creative Ideation and Creative Production, Creativity Research Journal, 27:4, 334-341, DOI:10.1080/10400419.2015.1087270




  1. http://theconversation.com/creativity-in-schools-sounds-good-so-whats-the-hitch-34411
  2. http://www.teach-nology.com/currenttrends/inquiry/