As a teacher it’s obvious that you are always fascinated and inspired by the nature of learning itself. I have determined a bit of a theory from all my years teaching. Learning has a law of three. To happen it has to be the right time, the right place and the right person. If one of these elements is not present learning doesn’t happen. It’s not anyone’s fault and it doesn’t mean learning won’t happen when the missing pieces drop into place one day. Walking down the street and have that light bulb moment on what your teacher was on about, all that time ago. It doesn’t have to be the right time, place and person at the same time. It can happen over time and in any sequence.
The community and the value it places on education determine the importance its people will place on it. During the time of my teacher training I travelled to Bali. It was 1972 and Kuta Beach had no tourists. A bar called “Poppies” was the only place you could get a drink and a joint called Dayan’s had the closest thing to western food and served something resembling a steak which was cut from a dairy cow . I went to the local school, made myself known to the teacher. It was only a single teacher school back then. He wanted to improve his English and translated my stories of Australia to the children. They were beautiful children, respectful and obedient yet at the same time inquisitive, cheeky and cheerful. They could take all you had and were still ready for more. I couldn’t convince them that a platypus was real however. A very funny failure.
I found out it was only one child per family that could afford to be sent to school. School finished at 2 pm and that child went home and repeated the lessons to everyone else in the family from grandmother down. They really valued education as a pathway out of poverty. When I asked the teacher how he handled discipline problems he looked at me as if I was nuts. He didn’t have discipline problems. Back in Australia the value of a teacher on the respected professions list had just slipped under that of a lawyer (God forbid) after being second only to doctors ever since the great depression. Back in my classroom I had to continue implementing behaviour negotiations with kids who either didn’t value education, took it for granted or didn’t want to be there. Dreaming of teaching in Bali with kids who did.
In this third post dedicated to the insights of Sir Ken Robinson I come to his last reason why human life evolved to flourish. Those so far:
• Firstly “Humans are naturally different and diverse.”
• Secondly “What drives human life to flourish is curiosity.”
The third principle is: “Human life is inherently creative.”
“It’s why we have different resumes. We create our lives and we can recreate them as we go through them, it’s the common currency of being a human being.” – Sir Ken Robinson – “We all create our own lives by this restless process of imaging alternatives and possibilities and the main role of education is to awaken and develop these powers of creativity.”
“All successful educational environments individualise teaching and learning, recognise it is students who are learning and the system has to engage them, their curiosity, their individuality and their creativity. That’s how you get them to learn.”
Successful schools support their teachers, select inspired people, give them first class support and professional development. As a mentor to trainee teachers I would ask these simple questions. Are you using teaching as a stepping stone to another career? If so forget it and go somewhere else. Do you like kids? If so, “so far so good” I would say. Children intuitively sense if a teacher likes the company of kids. “Did you have a teacher you hated? If so, don’t do what they did. Did you have a teacher you loved? If so, do what they did. After their six week practical you could mostly tell if they were going to cut it, and those who would view teaching as a vocation or a career.
“There is no system in the world or no school in the country that’s better than its teachers. Teachers are the lifeblood of a schools success, but teaching is a creative profession, teaching, properly conceived is not a delivery system.” Sir Ken Robinson – “Great teachers mentor, stimulate, provoke and engage. In the end education is about learning. If there is no learning going on there is no education going on.”
Education cannot be decided in committee rooms. It is not an industrial process that can be understood by data mining methods to create some perfect algorithm for success now and in the future. It doesn’t work that way. Teachers and students do it in classrooms in ways difficult if not impossible to measure.
Education cannot be a command and control centralised model.
” If you remove their discretion it stops working. Education is an organic system, in many places they are not dead they are dormant. Right beneath the surface are the seeds of possibility, waiting for the right conditions to come about and with organic systems if the conditions are right life is inevitable. You take an area, a school, a district, change the conditions and give people a different sense of possibility, a different set of expectations, a broader range of opportunities, cherish and value the relationships between teachers and learners, offer people discretion to be creative and to innovate in what they do and schools which were once bereft spring to life.” – Sir Ken Robinson
No two people are the same. Curiosity can be sparked but not faked. Creativity can’t really be taught but can be nourished, supported and applauded. This is the stuff of a teacher who sees the job as a vocation and not a career. Parents hope that their children will be taught by at least one of those teachers in their schooling just like they probably were. No matter how old they are, they will not have forgotten that teacher who touched a part of their being which had hitherto remained untouched. Those of you that say if you can’t do it in real life, you go and teach it, screw you. You know nothing.