Thursday, March 16, 2006
Teachers can be prickly individuals
It does seem a paradox at times when teachers do not demonstrate enthusiasm for a new idea that would improve both their teaching and their student’s learning – and possibly make teaching more fun.
But it is also understandable as teachers over the years have been bombarded with ideas they ought to implement provided by distant, sometimes instant, 'experts'!
Some teachers, like their students, just find it easier to keep their heads down and play the game. This is a wise survival move particularly as no one seems that interested in the voice or concerns of the teachers
As a result many teachers seem to have adopted a few basic myths;
1. Some teachers believe that theory is not important to them as they are practical people and know what works for them. Asking teachers to articulate their theories, one observer writes, ‘Is akin to asking fish to examine water.’
2. Many teachers hold the view that teachers should be able to ‘do their own thing’ in the classroom as there is no one best way.
3. Some believe as ‘professionals’ they feel they ought to be trusted rather than be held accountable.
4. Some are delicate flowers very sensitive about perceived criticism, either direct or implied.
5. And of course there are the cynical and suspicious who have suffered at the hands of countless failed innovations. Many withdraw into their own world and in the worst of case become ‘cryogenics’; the ‘living dead’.
These are the ‘prickly teachers’ that are easily upset.
The challenge is to develop a school culture that can help such teachers reach past such counterproductive myths.
There are teachers in all schools who are open to new ideas that are there to help them if they were to ask but it difficult to change ingrained habits, particularly in traditional schools that reflect fragmented learning and privatization of teaching.
Another myth that gets in the way of school change is the putting down of teachers with ideas as ‘showing off’ and as a result such valuable teachers begin to downplay their expertise rather than evoking jealously from their peers.
All is not lost. Beyond such ‘defensive masks’ most teachers long to be part of a collegial community; one that values each persons uniqueness and contribution.
The first step would be to begin a conversation about what would make an ideal school for both teachers and learners. A number of issues would arise and teachers could themselves start to decide for themselves what needs to be done.
Teacher designed schools, teachers as learners – now that is a vision worth fighting for.