I don’t know if it was my own education that got me to this point in life, or whether my ability to make sense of things is in spite of it.
One of my pet dislikes (and it happens often enough) is being asked about an influential teacher who was important in my learning. The assumption is that every articulate, independent thinking person with some measure of success must have had someone who lit the fire, who made the learning in school come alive. And most people in education can name at least one such person. Many will cite that person as being the reason for taking up teaching as a career.
But not me. I can’t name one teacher who I would put above the crowd. Some were better than average, and a lot struggled to even remember who I was. I suppose I like to think that my teaching style and methodology is based on what that fictional teacher would have been like. But that does not automatically translate that I’ve become the “one teacher” for anyone else. Well, no one has told me that. A few ex-students have told me that they have fond memories of being in my class, but that’s about it. Yet I like to believe that I’ve been a successful teacher, and that I now have something worthwhile to bring to the table as a leader.
So, there is a bit of an unwritten assumption that as a student moves through the education system, they will invariably encounter their own “one teacher” who will flip the switch and light the pathway to educational success. There is also an assumption that following that educational pathway also equals learning. I read plenty of smart people who believe that the system as it currently exists is broken and needs radical re-thinking, that it can’t be fixed from within and that tinkering around the edges doesn’t really help the disengaged and disadvantaged. Technology really does challenge how learning can occur – but maybe the system limits those possibilities to just digitising age old pedagogies.
I don’t know. There are plenty of times when I’m not sure what to believe when it comes to learning within the paradigm of education.
But I do know this. Those of us who connect, put out our still-green ideas in blogs, tweets and comments, who have taken the time to explore and play in the many spaces of the web have an immense advantage over those who do not. The challenge is how do we move the spark of learning away from being dependent on one person provided by an institution, to being self provided. Learning how to learn has become a huge buzz phrase – and I sense many educators are a bit afraid of the concept of self motivated learners because in some ways it threatens the age old concept of teacher. But on the internet I get “taught” every day by people who freely offer opinions, advice and experiences of their own. They don’t have me as their “student”, and they don’t have the responsibility of “assessing” my learning, but I learn from them at my own pace as time permits and as my interest deepens.
So, what does that look like to kids at the primary school level?
All I can say is that I envy those of you who have strong beliefs about what exactly should be happening to education in this country, because there are times when I feel like I have no idea. Like the cliche says, the more I learn about anything, the more I realise how little I really know.