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Teaching with higher standards

Improving the conveyance of knowledge

I REMEMBER sitting in my classroom just after school one day a few years ago, looking out the window and admiring the plethora of snow that had been descending on London since early morning. Not just any snow, rather, the United Kingdom's version of a snow storm. School had closed early that afternoon and I had just dismissed my overjoyed Year 8s barely past the stroke of noon. I could already see them hurling snowballs in the distance. Apparently there would be snow the next day as well, bringing about even more school closures. 

However, a second thought crossed my mind that day: What of their education? Our students were going to miss out on a whole afternoon of enriched and fruitful learning - to the joy of many, admittedly. But what about Macbeth, poetry, the greenhouse effect... And what of Monday's classes? Hours wasted. How could our students learn outside of the classroom?

This train of thought eventually drifted to the question: Can students learn without the complex and traditional surroundings of a school? Or teachers? At the time, I had only days before read a fascinating article by Chris Wilson, titled, "How to survive the teacher apocalypse". Although it referred specifically to ELT (English Language Teaching), I think it has great relevance in regards to teaching Primary and Secondary school subjects today. In it, Chris wrote about a teacher-less future with autonomous learning.

He asked the simple question: "If you had the option of learning on your own or learning with a teacher, which would you choose?" Seemed like a simple enough question. Why, and even how, could someone possibly replace the face-to-face interaction of a living, breathing, thinking person, filled with knowledge and experience? A person who understood emotion, could sympathise, be a role model. Technology cannot teach critical thinking, can it? However, Chris then made a great point about the quality of teachers out there. He commented on the standards and drive, creativity and effort of a successful teacher who would survive this "coming apocalypse". There is certainly no room for half hearted teachers, dictating solely from a book. The teachers that will survive in the future are the ones who will go beyond the basic duties required of them. They will give a reason why in-person, classroom learning is still the best avenue for a proper education, perhaps even supplemented by technology in its many forms.

The main idea is that teaching is not just a job. There is no room for autopilot mode, corner cutting, sub par lessons and laziness. Chris spoke of conscious diligence and the continual need for teachers to improve their lessons, their positive interactions with students and focus on professional development - because, in the end, students need to have the desire to welcome that knowledge which educators bring them, and they shape and mould themselves, unlocking their true potential. Not to mention, we as teachers are also the ones learning and growing with each day and every semester.

Teaching is a learning process in itself that doesn't end with getting a job at a school, creating habits and routines and not challenging your students or yourself. Stagnation is terrible in this profession. Take pride in what you do, respect it and make yourself and those around you better. As teachers, we have that responsibility at the very least.

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