Monday, July 4, 2011

Developing educators

I've thought for a long time that we fail to appreciate that there are a range of teachers required in education as different teaching styles benefit different students.  Our teaching practicum system has a tendency to promote outgoing, gregarious teachers and discourage practicum teachers that are not.  This is a real shame as those that take time to build their skills and have a calling to teaching may need more help to get over that initial hurdle of conquering teaching practices and behaviour management but then excel in creating engaging, caring and developmentally appropriate learning environments.

I was once told that I had a lifetime of occupations crammed into my twenties, but even with this I barely made it through my ATP.   My final practicum was a train wreck (my only pass grade of my degree) but does this define me as a bad teacher five years later?  Well.. I'm still here and still improving my teaching.  I'm no teacher of the year but my classes are well defined, my students are achieving and as a team we are moving forward.  My growth from that point on ATP has been linear and I expect that to continue.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that the best teachers are not necessarily those that found things easy, but those that really had to deconstruct a problem, seek to understand it deeply and then work with others to find a solution.  This creates an understanding of the difficulty of capturing the nature of the learning problem.  It's hard to get this point across to practicum teachers as many come in expecting it to be as easy as we sometimes make it look, not realising that getting kids to the point where they engage fully may have taken a term (or in some cases a few years) of hard work, organising resources has taken hours of planning and that skills and knowledge used in the classroom took years of experimenting until things came together.  Reflection is a key component in this growth.

The first five years in teaching for me wasn't easy, but after the first couple of years, with good support it certainly is becoming easier.  It's one reason why I say seniority has its place.  You don't survive as a classroom teacher unless you can handle the pressure most of the time and have management structures to relieve the pressure for the remainder of the time.  Without a hierarchy of some nature, we can't give teachers time to grow, nurturing them in soft classes, mentoring them through difficulties without fear and then developing them into true educators.

Perhaps after a few more practicum students I'll think this is a load of drivel and that the system is right..  but I hope not.  I'd like to say that we can develop a system where students, teachers and administrators see teacher diversity as a key goal within the system.

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