Apparently Jim Horn, according to Jim Horn over at School Matters. He spends a good chunk of a blog criticizing Bill Gates, Doug Lemov and Elizabeth Green for their mechanistic view of creating a good teacher. He criticizes Green and Gates for not knowing that many of Green's training methods or commandments have been known for a long time.
The blog goes on and on about the failures of Elizabeth Green and her lack of understanding about what makes a good teacher. Horn then gives a brief reading list for those ignorant of his wonderful knowledge.
He is correct. People who write about teacher training probably should know something about it. I'm no expert on teacher training, although I've taught and used many methods found in research.
However, I began to realize as I read that Horn has no solution for the current problem in schools. He strongly criticizes Doug Lemov's 49 commandments for teachers and likens his method to a production line in a factory, but has no solution of his own. In addition, he says nothing about why, if his knowledge of what makes a good teacher is so widespread, that schools have such big problems hiring and training good teachers. He also doesn't explain what many of us have been asking for years, "Why don't bad teachers either get trained or else get fired?"
I agree with Horn that a great teacher isn't a machine, but I don't think that Lemov believes that either. There is a difference between saying that there are techniques that work consistently to help kids learn and saying that there is some mechanistic way to use these techniques. A teacher, even with the 49 commandments still has to understand the art of how to use them in the same way that any artist needs to learn brush strokes or that a violinist needs to understand proper posture and bow position.
Of course, the greatest artists often take license to vary from the "rules," but it's only when they understand the rules and get really good at them that they can begin to improvise. I recently spoke with a classically trained violinist who now plays primarily in a country band. He told me that it's his classical training that allows him to be a bit "loose" when he plays country music. He has the ability to ignore proper body position and posture sometimes because he can correct in other ways while handling the bow. I'm not a country music fan nor a violinist, but it is quite impressive to watch, especially now that I know that he is doing it.
It strikes me that teachers are the same way. Lemov's 49 commandments may not be gospel, but they may well provide those introductory rules, especially for teachers who need that very basic help, whether for the first time or because they never learned the rules twenty years ago. I also imagine that Lemov would agree that a great teacher can often use these techniques with greater variation and perhaps even ignore some of them at times as they begin to sense what students need in a given setting.
Horn's argument does not demonstrate that good teachers are not built. He also doesn't demonstrate that Lemov's 49 commandments don't work. He simply makes fun of people he doesn't like. Don't be fooled. Teaching can be improved. If it can't, then bad teachers should be fired without attempts to make them better. If it turns out that there is more than one way to make a great teacher, then have at it. Very few in the charter school world is saying that we want bad teachers. In fact, we are simply saying that we want to make good teachers. If a teacher can't be good or doesn't want to work at being good, then he or she isn't a teacher--or at least shouldn't be.