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Why a Teacher who is “good enough” is not good enough– and the one action a principal can take to intervene

“I was hired to be the instructional leader of the building, but I am really more of a fireman,” said a friend and third-year principal during a quick chat the other day. She continued, “I want to get into classrooms; I want to help ‘grow’ some teachers who need to improve, but I end up spending each day just putting out fires.” 

Although I didn’t say it, I was thinking of all of the ways I hoped my friend would support those teachers who needed to grow—and I knew the one action that she should most certainly take.

Every student deserves “great” teaching

I know 3 things to be true as a result of over 30 years in pubic education:

  1. “Good enough” teaching is not good enough
  2. It is almost impossible to grow a teacher from “good enough” to great without some type of structured intervention
  3. Every educational stakeholder I know believes that every student deserves to have a great teacher…and too few do

Ineffective Vs. effective interventions

Our profession has accepted without question that the best way to “grow” teachers is through professional development.    Recently, the ESSA provided examples and non-examples of what effective professional learning is:


Interventions that Work

Want to provide an intervention for your “good enough” teachers?  One that is aligned with the definition provided by the ESSA?  Try something new:  virtual coaching.

Virtual coaching is a service that is increasingly being offered by educational service centers, educational preparation services, and college and universities.  What is it?  A highly qualified “coach” is hired by a conscientious administrator to work with teachers “virtually” over a relatively short, but rather intense, period of time.

Here is a typical cycle along with the roles of all stakeholders:


Calling all Firemen Instructional leaders

Administrators, as you consider getting help for your “good enough” teachers, be careful about falling into the “there’s so little time left this school year” trap.  There is plenty of time left for virtual coaching to be effective—and there will be enough time until the end of March.  So, before today’s fires start, or after you finish putting them out, consider contacting a reputable virtual coaching service—because a “good enough” teacher isn’t good enough.



Allyson Burnett is an educational consultant and adjunct professor in the Urban Education Department at a university in the Houston area.   You may contact her at:

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