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It’s common in professional development for teachers to be asked to think of a great teacher you had when you were younger. I always have fun with this one. Here it is: The top 10 reasons why John Quintell is the best teacher I ever had. He…

  1. Was an absolute expert and professional in his field, with extensive knowledge of the subject matter, including (and especially) pedagogical content knowledge.
  2. Facilitated the most heterogeneous groups I’ve ever seen. He put on a differentiation clinic.
  3. Understood the zone of proximal development. When he’s getting to know you, he spends a little time giving you a “diagnostic,” and then pretty quickly knows what is manageable for your next short-term and long-term goals. He could teach someone at literally any level.
  4. Was a complete character. Fun and funny. My friends and I still laugh about his stories.
  5. Gave great, actionable feedback. He used his words wisely. He wouldn’t lie to you and tell you you were great if you weren’t, but he always had something positive to say and always had something you should be working on.
  6. Did very little direct instruction. A little at the beginning, a little at the end; all other times, the kids were doing all the work and he was observing or working with a small group or an individual. Even his direct instruction was rarely to more than a quarter of the group at once (he recognized the heterogeneity of the group).
  7. Had catch phrases that still stick with me a decade later.
  8. Maintained a terrific balance between the procedural and conceptual. I was fine doing practice that was tedious or boring because I understood the bigger picture.
  9. Was strategic about grouping. “You and Cam are dealing with the same problem. Watch each other and keep your eye on _____!” or “Pair up with Gonzo for a while because he’s a great example of someone who can do ____”
  10. Understood the importance of mindset. Regardless of ability or skill level, he had endless patience for kids who put in work and zero tolerance for laziness.

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Did I mention he was my hitting coach? Quintell may not have known half the terms I just used, nor has he ever set foot in a school of education, but he got results. If this scrawny blogger’s half-decent college baseball career isn’t sufficient evidence (it should be), watch the amount of money his customers are willing to pay to be 1 of 15 for an hour in his batting cage – with 7-year-olds and actual professional baseball players in there at the same time.

I know there are many parallels between teaching and coaching and I know there are limitations to the comparison. I’m hardly the first to bring this up. But if I can do even 8 of those 10 things well, my kids are in for a treat. Having coached kids in athletics quite a bit myself, and coming off an extremely fascinating season coaching girls’ softball for my school, this will not be the last time I write about sports on this blog.

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