I am, first and foremost, a teacher and I have been teaching children for 30 years and I think about the art of teaching almost daily, creating my own philosophy of education that now appears at odds with the system of schooling currently being endured by far too many children. We have allowed those in power to create a structure that makes teaching a science and I’ll lay my cards on the table right now – that’s nonsense.
Teaching is not a science, nor is it the province of robotic indifference or deference to higher authorities. Teaching is about relating to human beings and the great teacher is a craftsman who allows creativity and curiosity to flourish; teachers are not just beggared peddlers of information, bereft of personality or ideas.
The whole of society, certainly in the developed world, has lurched away from personal freedoms and replaced these with a sanitized version of safety to the point where children, and increasingly adults too, operate in a clinical and over-monitored culture. And when a culture focuses on safety and avoidance of risk, our education system and structure reflects those societal pressures.
Schools today are a shadow of what they could be, what they desire to be. The profession is now the most-highly trained and well-qualified in its history. We have a profession that is passionate about teaching and learning. We have teachers that are crying out for a higher degree of autonomy. We can tinker with the curriculum, we can tinker with course choices, we can tinker with accountability measures, we can travel down the road of reaccreditation of teachers every 5 years, we can (and do) take a big brother approach to management of education.
Or, those in power could lead education in a different direction of travel. They could provide schools with improved financial resource, they could open up the curriculum and offer greater choice, flexibility and breadth, they could allow schools to develop their own personalized culture relevant and in keeping with the students they teach, they could show far greater respect to those who actually teach, give them far greater autonomy. They could, and should, concentrate their efforts on destressing the system, destressing our young, destressing the workforce. Our schools need fewer accountability measurements, fewer judgements, greater openness to new and innovative practices and the space and time to make it happen.
In the final analysis, we need to change the direction of travel.
To anyone who is listening, to anyone that can make it happen: please, let’s steer the ship away from its journey to Antarctica. Let’s head to sunnier and warmer climes. It’s not difficult, it’s just a matter of moving the rudder…