My mother was a teacher, my grandmother too. Not only that, my family also has an education supply/manfacturer business. So it’s not as if I’ve fallen into education by accident.
Indeed, it’s been a long time coming: I too trained as a primary teacher then decided to become a physical education (PE) teacher. I still remember my first practical as an intern at a school: on my second day, a year twelve student (6th form) committed suicide, what an introduction to the teaching world…
Then, in my second practical at an “exclusive” school, I had a child say to me “I don’t have to do this as my family donated a basketball court, so of course I’ll get my grade point average!” I wasn’t sure what to say… two days later, I was teaching a PE class where one eight year old produced a note from home saying he had just had a pedicure so he couldn’t play sport today. My first thought was, “Is this what teaching really is?”
Soon enough, though, I found the upside to teaching: learning and working with a new generation, with their different lifestyles, improved technology. All the while, still striving to find a medium and a method to educate this generation on morals and ethics as well as the core curriculum, creativity, innovation, etc.
Today, I received this in my twitter feed, a “call for teachers” video (#TEACHnow) which prompted me to write this post, “Do I believe teaching is a calling or is it part of your training and environment?” The old “nurture vs nature” debate which is specific this time to the teaching industry… To a degree, of course it is part of your training; however at times it can be the most rewarding employment you will ever have by seeing students develop, grow and learn in front of your eyes.
There has been a recent attitude shift towards teachers from parents: from supporting them to now blaming them for the lack of results in their children. Teachers are not only expected to provide the content, motivation, they are also meant to make every child a genius… Is this possible I ask in this day and age? Is every child a genius in their own way?
Teaching just got harder with more technology students whom have increased access to instant knowledge. A teacher now needs to be creative with many activities including utilizing the technology to teach.
Recently I was lecturing at a technical college in Asia on entrepreneurship. To gain the students attention I really wanted a blocker for their smart phones – but that just isn’t readily available. Instead we embraced the phone and used software to facilitate the class like socrative and padlet. And we included activities to sell their ideas by making a video in powtoon. This way I was able to get to the students on their level of understanding.
Yes, at this technical college, we still used practical hands-on activities such as floating two paper clips on the water, making pasta towers to balance with a marshmallow and piece of masking tape; this is to develop their design and critical thinking skills. This was vital to broaden their horizons as the kids all came from a very traditional education system which promoted learning by rote, not knowing how to build in-depth analysis, rather memorising the whole text book.
I was first lead to believe they were not good enough or was it because they were lazy: the class I taught were brilliant at trying to study nothing other than what was due to be in the exam i.e. the minimal requirement. At first I didn’t understand, thinking “wow, these students are really difficult” however as we learnt to trust each other over 18 months I learned amazing things from these students. They weren’t lazy, they had been failed by a system that taught them this is the way to learn. The only way to learn is by memorising information and instead of (taxonomy level 3 understanding and apply the information) they simply didn’t see the point. It was “think like me or don’t think at all”.
Going back to my first point about the attitude shift from parents to blame teachers for results. Have these parents realised that education continues at home, learning never stops especially in the early years, with parents, complimenting and supporting the teachers, allowing them to do their job? Teaching may be a “calling” but we should foster and nurture a positive and practical teaching environment for the benefit of both teachers and students. Let’s work together to support our teachers around the world!