Saturday, April 9, 2011

Outstanding Teacher... Nonsense.

I was in school.  I had an English teacher that was rude, abrupt and many students couldn't stand him.  He changed my life in that he found issues with my essay skills and fixed them.  Every Friday afternoon for two years we wrote essays.  On the day before we finished he said to the class.. whatever you do.. leave the creative question alone in the university entrance exam.  After class he took me aside and said.. do the creative question.

Despite being a Mathematics teacher, it was my English score, followed by my History score that lead me into university.  My Maths and Science scores came next.  I attribute my success to him.

I remember another teacher in primary that let me get away with murder in the classroom because I always finished my work.  I needed to be mobile, so she let me, on condition that the same work was completed that all other students did.  Over time, (and after some work on diet), I settled down and was able to work with others.

Yet, on another occasion I had the lead English teacher, who was adored by my peers that I couldn't get along with at all and I failed her class.

By declaring "outstanding" teachers we fail to recognise that it takes a variety of teachers to raise a child, especially those with different social, emotional, physical or intellectual needs.  Sadly, generally the rule is that an outstanding teacher is one that sings their own praises loud enough or one that creates the time to write spurious documents about what they had achieved.  Not the one that knuckles down and gets the job done (or the experienced teacher that has done the hard yards and makes it look easy).

An outstanding teacher (in a student centred world) is someone that makes a lasting difference to student lives, something that is not often measurable until after students have left school.  I'm not sure what is hoped to be achieved by awards such as here except another media release for Peter Garrett in the future.  Parents certainly don't want to know that a great teacher is in another state and teachers know that the odds of being recognised for doing their job well is highly unlikely especially in difficult environments.  Students would likely dispute it even if it was won.  There really is very little upside for the majority of teachers short of political posturing.

I remember the year a teacher won the award for taking her class on 400 (exaggeration) field trips.  One wonders how direct teaching requirements were met?  Same could be said for excessive IT, collaborative learning and any one of a hundred "innovative" approaches.

If awards are an attempt at raising the profile of teaching, the idea fails as it only rewards a few - creating an elite rather than a college or fraternity.  It really is a daft idea.

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