Monday, December 12, 2011

What I learnt teaching teachers

My time in this role is coming to an end - soon I leave the university environment and return to that alternate reality known as the school.  

There are some things I will miss and some things I will not.

I will not miss the endless stream of marking.
I will not miss the countless hours of sitting in front of a computer dealing with online students.
I will not miss the politics, nor the relentless desire for growth.

But I will miss working with adult learners.
I will miss the conversations with like minded individuals - and the chance to learn from their expertise.

The thing  I will miss the most I find strangely disturbing to acknowledge as this is the only workplace in which I can honestly say I have felt this.  I will miss the respect for learning and knowledge which fills this place.  After three decades in education I find it truly disturbing that I have never had this sense in any school in which I have taught.  Do we as teachers really value learning...or do we merely value mastery of skill sets?  Do we value exploring ideas or merely understanding test items? I’ll miss the conversations about why we do certain things rather than how we do them.
I’ve learnt a lot in my time here – much of it shared on the pages of this blog.  But perhaps my biggest learning is something so obvious as to be often over looked.  We don’t really create teachers here.
We introduce students to learning theories, we examine classroom practices, we analyse curriculum content and practise delivery methods.  We discuss objectives and assessment and what takes place in-between.  We discuss behaviour management and student motivation. We talk about issues to do with student differentiation and human development. We teach how to plan and deliver effective units of work. We show student-teachers how to write grammatically correct essays and follow academic conventions and referencing techniques.  But, despite our best efforts, we simply cannot create teachers.
To be a teacher you need to have at least one student.   It is the student that transforms an educator into a teacher.  The crucial part about being a teacher is that you must care about your students – not in a mushy, overly emotional sort of way, but with a genuine regard for their well being, learning and personal development.   We can’t really “teach” relationships here.  We can discuss concepts such as respect, fairness, confidentiality, compassion, consistency, equality and differentiation.  But that is like confusing a list of ingredients with the act of cooking – it is how those ingredients are blended together in reality that is important.  
Although we can introduce students to a raft of important concepts during their training it is in the school where they learn to apply these concepts and skills.

Dr. James Comer  said that “No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship”. 
He was right.

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