Sunday, 6 April 2014

Teaching - profession or art form?

"Everyone remembers a good teacher” was the government slogan used a few years ago to recruit new members into the profession. If we cast our minds back to our own school days we know how true this is. Thirty years later I still often think about the teachers at Rutlish School, in South West London, that inspired me and helped to gain new insights into my learning. It saddens me when I hear it said that it is hard to recruit young graduates into teaching. I consider teaching to be such a noble and privileged vocation. It is a chance to make a difference in young peoples’ lives by opening their eyes to the world around them and giving them key life skills which will stay with them many years after leaving school.

I was discussing grammar school education with one of my deep thinking year 11 geographers on how learning should be more than just the regurgitation of facts. Yes, as teachers we expect our students to acquire ‘core’ knowledge about the world around them and to work very hard but surely education is so much more than learning content. A good teacher should enthuse their learners and leave them with the desire to find out more.

In these days of Google and Wikipedia many students can now teach themselves. That being the case why bother with schooling and education at all? My 5 year old son loves school. When it comes to the weekend he says, “Daddy, I miss school!” I didn't want to burst his bubble but I wonder how long his sentiment will last?

I actually love learning and expect I’ll be one those pensioners enrolled simultaneously on about 5 courses at an adult education centre. One of my problems is that I find everything interesting! The older I get the more interested in things I become. If then a 5 year old and a 43 year old can love learning surely our teenagers can be the same, provided their environment and culture of learning is supportive.

Is then teaching a profession or an art form? It has to be both. As teachers we need to be professional in every aspect of our work. Being human we may fall short of perfection but we should have the highest standards. Teaching is also an interpersonal art. It is a craft we can develop throughout our careers. Teachers need time to be inspired by their subjects. They need time to be creative.

Teaching is more than professionalism. It is a vital vocational and an unmissable opportunity to improve our nation by developing its most important resource – its young people. Wouldn't it be wonderful to see every classroom full of inspired and engaged students?

So, fellow colleague, I encourage you to enjoy developing your art. Enjoy using your brushes of new resources. Enjoy taking time out to let your creativity thrive. If you are young person reading this, if you love your subject, have a creative flair and enjoy working with people please do consider entering this most noble of professions!