Monday, July 25, 2011

What should a parent expect from a teacher in the 21stC?

This an extract from a blog by Steve Wheeler Professor of Technology  University of Plymouth UK Steve is presenting in NZ later in the year.An excellent blog.

To read the full blog from Steve wheeler.

What should a parent expect from a teacher in the 21st Century?

This is actually quite an interesting question and if we had had time to answer it, I would have said something along these lines:

The question acknowledges the direct interest parents have over their children's education, and reminds teachers of the need to keep parents informed of their children's progress. As a parent of three children who have now all left school (where has the time gone?), I know that I was always interested in what my kids had been getting up to in school, and what they had learnt. But I was also interested in the methods the teachers had employed to help my kids learn. That may have been because I am a teacher educator myself, and I have a professional interest. How many other parents who are non-educators actually think about the methods and tools teachers are using? Also, beyond the fact that the teachers of their children are qualified educators and have been police-checked, how much do parents want to know about teachers or the methods they use? What should parents expect of teachers in the 21st Century?

Apart from the surge in technology use, and the new skills teachers need to adopt, implement and harness new digital media and tools (a subject for another blogpost), I would argue that little has changed in our expectations of good educators.

In this post I'm not going to dwell on digital skills. Instead I'm going to focus on three essential things teachers need to practice, and without which children would be poorer.

The first thing parents should expect from teachers is their ability to inspire children to learn. This is vitally important. Yes, it helps that teachers are experts in their own subject areas, and it yes, it is important that teachers are organised and can maintain some kind of discipline in the classroom, but I would like to argue that the ability to inspire is more important that all of these. All teachers should aspire to be an inspirational catalyst for learning. Enthusiasm for learning, a passion for their subject and the ability to get kids excited about something new is vitally important in the shaping of young minds. You can't teach enthusiasm or passion, but it can certainly be infectious.

Another allied skill we should expect from teachers is an ability to understand the child's perspective. Good teachers have the ability to place themselves in the position of the child, and ask themselves, how would I have felt in that situation? This is the basis of good pedagogy, and was referred to by Jean Piaget as 'decentering'. Many of us, as we grow older, tend to forget the experiences we had when we were in school. Intuitive teachers understand what kids experience and know how to maximise those experiences. They know how to tap into the sense of wonder a child has when she sees something new for the first time. They recognise the importance of the need to touch or taste, to directly feel and relish a new experience and the desire to question, to experiment and to ask 'what if...?' These are manifestations of childhood all teachers should remember. Good teachers recognise that children need this kind of experimental space to learn.

Parents should also expect teachers to give creative freedom to children. Although teachers are hard pressed for time, the very best know the importance of play and can create playful learning spaces. Children have great imagination, but until it is given the opportunity to be expressed outwardly, it is difficult to share or celebrate. The best teachers do not always insist on the 'right answer' or the correct way to do something. They don't dismiss children who offer outlandish ideas or alternative suggestions. Sure, children needs some facts and rules, but they also need to be able to question those facts and find out what happens if someone does break those rules. Children should be free to make mistakes without fear of punishment, and should be able to express themselves creatively and explore their world in safety

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