Wednesday, February 01, 2012

On teachers and teaching

Cerebral Ramblings post on bad teachers got me thinking. I have suffered at the hands of bad teachers. I used to hate school and although the passage of time has dimmed this emotion I can't really empathise with those who profess great love for one's school.

Education, especially at primary and secondary school has become commoditised with a focus on large classes and rote learning, which breeds (and rewards) only poor or mediocre teachers. Shaw's adage that people who can do; and those who cannot teach, is unfortunately true.

Teaching is in fact a noble profession, one of those that I describe as a 'calling'. To my mind teaching, preaching and healing are all callings: if one does not hear an inner voice that calls one to it and if one is not prepared to devote ones life to it, better not go. If you are only looking for a career or a means to make money, don't follow the callings, spend your time on something else.

In a perfect world, teaching is about a student at one end of a log and a teacher at another. Human beings are naturally curious all that a great teacher need do is to stimulate and guide that curiosity. In order to learn it is often more important to ask the right question than to find the right answer. Frame a good question, pose a knotty but interesting problem and let nature take its course in the mind of the pupil. On the way, equip the pupil with the tools to tackle larger questions, initially to read, write and perform basic arithmetic but later to the basics of science and logic.

Fear plays no part in learning. Discipline is necessary in life but the process of learning should never be coloured with fear. Patience is essential, civility necessary and kindness prized among the characteristics of good teachers.

This is what great teachers are about. I should know, my grandfather was one.

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