Teaching is an interesting job. It is interesting not only for the people who do it, but it seems it is also interesting for everybody else.
Everybody went to school. Everyone experienced teachers, both good and bad. And they like to tell us about it. I am a physics teacher, and everybody I meet at parties takes great joy in telling me that they couldn’t do Science. My wife is a Maths teacher, and everyone tells her, with a smile on their faces, that they couldn’t and still can’t do Maths.
I think they have got it backwards. Their teachers couldn’t teach them Maths. Their teachers couldn’t get them interested in Science.
I am not saying that every teacher must produce tailor made lessons to suit the whims of the children in front of them. I am not saying that we must use every new idea in every lesson. I am not saying that we need to work ourselves to death.
I am saying that there are core things that we can do to make it so that everybody can at least leave our classrooms with more in their head than they came in with, and an urge to learn more.
And these things do not need to create huge amounts of work for the teacher. I see teachers hauling home mountains of books to “grade” or “mark” and I wonder what the husbands and wives of these teachers must think as they stare at a mound of books with their spouse on the other side. What does all that grading and marking achieve?
I see children leaving school after six hours of education with a backpack full of two hours of homework. Does that benefit them? I suspect, that the least able get least from it and need the most. The most able don’t need it.
I see teachers bemoaning the fact that the children are disorganised, disrespectful and indisciplined. And then I see the same teachers allow the children to do those things without explaining why they should stop and how they should rectify their behaviour.
I see teacher training that does not train teachers how to teach. Things will have different vocabulary now, but I would bet that in teacher trainer colleges around the world, teachers are not being taught how to run a classroom, how to check that anyone understands anything, how to ask a question, how to set the high standards, or how to do much of anything.
Instead, student teachers are told to learn arcane education theory that has very little to do with actually explaining to children how to do things.
I see us all lying to parents because we don’t want to fail anybody. If children are failing, then we are failing them as teachers, right? It couldn’t possibly be that some children do not work, do not listen and do not pass?
As a teacher, it might not be my fault everything falls apart one day. I cannot predict power cuts, or internet outages, or who had a falling out with whom at break time.
I can make it my responsibility to upskill myself so that the next time something goes crazy, I know what to do and how to deal with it.
I want to talk about how to make us better teachers.
I want to make us want to be better teachers.