As I mentioned on Tuesday, Alex Hayes responded to my Blurry Visions post with a whole bunch of insight - I would urge regular readers who may only read via RSS subscription to go and read the whole thing, comments and all to gain some context. I was checking my blog while I was waiting pre-conference day in the lobby at TSOF and I quickly read his reply, then tapped out a response. A bit like most of my blog comments, it was completely off-the-cuff and was triggered by one or two of Alex's points. Sometime later that day (10 past midnight! Probably even later NZ time!) Alex opened fire on his blog. Here's the line that triggered that response.
I think moving forward unfortunately depends so much more on the teaching workforce than any dynamic and adaptive qualities of the students we teach.
Whether it was a crazy night for you or TSOF effected, I really don't get where that line above came from. In fact my thoughts on this spurned me onto coin in my blog today ;
" Students seek not to be taught rather to be assessed. Learners seek ways to better get to know you, the educator, as the content you deliver is often of little consequence to their learning".
I'd follow that up now with " to suppose that students give a toss is to imbue your perception with the very divides that seperated you from your learners in the first place. The essence of what a learner seeks is not what time to learn rather the opportunity to de-construct the clock and reasemble it so it works for them "
Alex does exactly what he should in this situation - call me out and say,"What the hell are you talking about? Am I hearing you right?" (Disclaimer - not his actual words!) So here's my go at explaining where that line comes from.
I used to think I was just an average teacher. When Joanne and I moved back to Adelaide I had the good fortune to work at Flagstaff Hill Primary where I learnt a whole heap about team teaching, resource based learning and middle schooling from my good colleague and friend, Lindsay. My boss at the time encouraged (pushed) both of us to apply for Advanced Skills Teacher status and in 1997, I achieved that with a presentation that blended student presentation and technology. There's a fair bit of mixed feelings amongst teachers that I have known about the worth of this status in our education system - it is meant to be a stepping stone for educator leadership but many experienced teachers believe that the work involved isn't sufficiently renumerated or in a more negative vein, that teachers going for and achieving AST1 were big noting themselves and putting themselves on a pedestal above the common practitioners at the chalkface. Not everyone thinks that way but whenever innovation or change is on the agenda and those same teachers mentally dig their heels in and start complaining about the new things they are "expected" to take on, I really wonder how education in this state is possibly going to move forward, how can momentum be sustained when heavy weights pull back on the rope. So, the moving forward I'm referring to is the developing of relevant learning for students, the pushing of boundaries and the realisation of value in innovation in the classroom. Our students have no problem moving forward and adapting to the rapid pace of change but too many classrooms are static or only changing grudgingly, seeking to stay the same using "established" modes of operation. So, the teaching workforce is key to this moving forward because the classroom teachers create the environment in which the students spend four to five hours a day, forty weeks of the year. If the majority of these classrooms have an innovative, dynamic educator leading and constructing the learning in a constant cycle of re-invention then the students will have an educational experience that keeps pace with the rest of the world, giving the students the skills needed to thrive and take control of their own learning. However, if the teacher is reluctant to let go of their "expert status", wants to control and stage manage every aspect of the school day, has the "answers" already and sees technology as an unnecessary intrusion to their structure and order - well, you get the picture. What the teaching workforce looks like in the classroom as a whole dictates the typical experience of our students.
I am proud that I achieved that AST1 level back in 1997. I was proud when I succesfully had it re-assessed in 2002 - and I was even prouder when I won my current job as an ICT coordinator. It was important for my own self worth as an educator - that trying new ideas, going against the grain, inventing new stuff, being mocked by cynics in the staffroom behind my back, taking a risk was worth it. I don't think that I am especially talented in my chosen field. I have many chinks in my armour and many flaws in the way I do things. I do think that I am passionate however, and that I have never been content to sit still and say, "I'm done with this. I'm just going to be a steady performer from now on." Education should be evolutionary and revolutionary at the same time and I worry that too many of my colleagues have neither the desire or bravado to embrace change and keep looking for better ways to engage and interact with the students in their care. Maybe, there aren't enough revolutionaries anymore. Maybe too much creativity has been stomped out by unrealistic work pressures and mandates from above.
So, Alex and my other loyal readers, I don't think that teachers are redundant or that teaching is dead - certainly not here in the primary school sector. I just want a culture of risk, boundary pushing, being open to new ideas to dominate again (did it ever?) and that teachers who do this to be encouraged, celebrated and held up as role models and that they dominate the classrooms of this nation, equipping students with the skills they need for the 21st Century.
Time to get off the soapbox. I'll leave you with this gem from Alex - it sums it all up.
Teachers and I'm one of them, are like verbs. We should always be in action.