Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Teaching Professionals

Marching to the beat

 Just how free are we to teach the way we would like ?

At the classroom level the highly experienced, teaching professional is often just viewed as a cog in the great machine of education. A machine that sets the rhythm and beat of our school year. A machine programmed by mostly faceless people.

The education machine's slow turning curriculum wheel relentlessly drives the cogs of the work programs which in turn spin the smaller, faster wheels of the lessons. We march to that tempo ! Our students bump along in lockstep. The work must be covered !

Could we break free and march to a different beat ?

                Teaching the traditional way

Nothing much has really changed in the past one hundred years or so. Periodically, grand schemes for a new curriculum (or teaching standards) are announced. Then there's the occasional teaching fads that come to us from the ivory towers. We hear of new research findings that reveal a better way. A narrow study results in a book (with a clever name) and the roadshow conferences (selling the idea) follow. The idea may be  partially adopted in some schools here and there (probably not for the best reasons) and then that fad fades and another takes it's place. Just like "New Improved" laundry powder !

Meanwhile we, the professional teachers at the work-face, carry on in much the same old traditional setting. The cogs keep turning. We are stuck with it. While our workloads increase.

Can the power of one make a difference from within the classroom ? What can we do ? Go with the flow ? Grin and bear it? Find another job ?

As they say "the more things change the more they remain the same" !

Perhaps neighborhood home schooling is the answer ?

 Professional freedom ?

You are a teaching professional. Think for a moment, how much freedom or leeway are you permitted to practice as a recognized teaching professional within your teaching world ?

When we look at other trained professionals we see that they are allowed a free hand to "apply their trade".

Take, for example, an Engineer (civil, mechanical, chemical, electrical, electronic, materials etc), he or she is free to design or build as they like so long the laws of physics are obeyed. A doctor is free to choose the treatment he or she thinks or knows is the best for the patient so long as the laws of physiology and medicine are followed. Yes, I know,there are other considerations (budgets, city hall and so on), but basically the recognition of their expertise is there. They have quite a reasonable freedom to practice.

You, the trained and learned teaching professional, understand the best teaching methods. After all, the human brain never changes how it captures, perceives, processes and applies information. Governed by its neural circuits, the brain's unchanging "laws of learning"  must be followed if the learning effort is to be successful. The teaching professional knows the best teaching approach to use for a given situation, and how the approach should be applied across a proper learning time frame. Doing anything less would be selling you students short ! Wouldn't it ?

Oh yes, you the professional teacher, do have a restricted sort of freedom where you may, within the confines of your classroom, find the time to try a new idea or two. But if try anything too radical or different then someone - student, admin, parent -  will be questioning your teaching method. The cog in the classroom is not spinning as it should !

Teacher College to the classroom !

So, are you treated as a professional ? Are you really free to teach as you would like ? Do you think the students are getting a fair deal ? But they say we are professionals don't they ?

What can you do if you know there's a better way ? Should you be courageous and take a stand ? Is the risk worth it ?

After all you have a family to  provide for. You have a home loan to pay off. You want to be included and not excluded. You want promotion. You need the job. So it's best to just keep your head down !

Educational Neuroscience, the light on the hill !

Educational neuroscience may one day turn the whole traditional educational model on its head. The transformation will be a revolution involving cognitive neuroscience, technology, philosophy and psychology. Student settings, learning times and assessments will forever change for the better. Technology will help make this possible. But the Education Machine will have to be re-built from the ground up !

A new, less rigid, machine humming away !

Teaching our students in a way that their brains learn best .... 

And now a sing-along 

Treading the boards on the wooden stage !

(adapted from The Show Must Go On - apologies to Leo Sayer)

I know, I know I chose this teaching life
It seems it's strangling me now
All the wild ideas, clever galahs
In ivory towers afar
they're all laughing at me now

Oh I've been so blind, so blind
I've wasted time
Wasted, wasted, oh so much time
Teaching on the stage, wooden stage
But I won't let their show go on

Sadly I see there's an enormous crowd like me
And they're all after change, yes they are
I wish maybe they'd tear down the walls
Of this classroom and let me out, let me out

I've been so used I've been so abused
I've been a fool I danced to their rules
I've been so used and oh so abused
But I won't let their show go on

Technology, I wish you'd help me escape
And help me get away
Leave me outside my address
Far away from this masquerade

Oh I've been so blind
I've wasted time
Wasted, wasted, oh so much time
Teaching on the stage, wooden stage
But I won't let their show go on

I've been so used I've been so abused
I've been a fool I danced to their rules
I've been so used oh and abused
But I won't let their show go on
I said I won't let their show, oh
Won't let their show go on.

                A poem for reflection

External Masquerade

You will understand the meaning if you think a bit !

Click to enlarge - as always

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