Thanks Baz Caitcheon for this valuable blog on teaching.
I’ve always considered John Banks to be crackers, and that’s on a good day.
My ears pricked up when he recently posited the idea of putting untrained teachers in front of school pupils.
The teaching fraternity howled, and while I wouldn’t call the motives behind charter schools educationally pure, JB may have sown the seeds of something that teachers could turn to their advantage.
First they’ll need to grasp an evolving change in role. From teacher to facilitator, or learning guide … choose your own title here.
I know loads of people that aren’t trained teachers, but have oodles to offer our young people in schools. They’re business entrepreneurs, accountants, scientists, mechanics, public office leaders – you name it. They’re not trained teachers nor do they wish to be – they have their own careers, but many have kids at school, and despite busy schedules would be keen to help if asked.
I’m not advocating replacing trained teachers, rather the opposite. I’m suggesting hooking up each teacher with ten or more adults in the community, that can actively lend a hand.
My particular interest is high schools, one because I have a pod of my own teens currently attending, two because I used to teach in them, and three, I think high school process needs to change to stay useful.
I’m suggesting that on any school day there are multiple members of the community in school helping teachers in classes, and working with teachers to take groups of kids out for real life experiences. I’m not suggesting a community free-for-all, rather, targeted members of the community invited in to aid teachers and mentor kids. Police checks all round, signing in and out through reception.
And if need be for objectivity, keep parents out of their own kids classes.
Some high schools are already onto this, various with special character specialise in it – but compared to what could be, most of them are slow out of the blocks.
Yes but as parents, are we not all working two jobs without a hope in hell of finding the time to get into our local high school to help out ?
In my experience of both asking – as a teacher, and being asked – as a parent, I’ve found my students parents happy to come in and do what they can, and the numerous times I was asked in during my own childrens primary school yrs … I made the time whenever possible, chuffed to be asked, happy to share.
At high school level we tend to drop our kids off and leave teachers to it. I’m guessing for lots of schools that’s the way they like it – ‘we’re the professionals, leave it to us – make sure they do their homework, bring the oranges on Saturday, otherwise stay out of it ‘
Though teachers may be rightly defensive of their profession, changes like these take nothing from their portfolio, on the contrary they stand to enhance their status and credibility in the community. Liasing and overseeing additional resource, outside real-world ideas, forming useful networks and relationships – these opportunities have to be good for both them and their students.
I’m guessing some teachers will love the idea; others will resist. Some are ill at ease with another adult in the room. Teaching can be a private thing – one adult, 30 kids. My experience of another adult in the class ? … whether parent or another teacher, they helped moderate behavior – both the students and mine, broke down the ratios and added to the learning environment – never anything but a positive experience.
These are fast changing times; our online children source information and largely ‘teach’ themselves – begging the question, what is education, what is learning, what is teaching, or the role of a ‘teacher’ ?
The clients here are our kids, and by association, we as parents. I know my children benefit from as many windows out of the classroom as they can get, and I’m always curious when I get a window into my child’s schools.
So where am I coming from?
I see high schools as an enormous waste of potential – at it’s core level you’re getting together hundreds of teens and some adults to guide and steer, but what goes on and more to the point how it goes on largely remains something from the industrial age. I honour teachers hugely – but they’re doing it all wrong.
I’ll push my own boat right out here by suggesting that high schools are way too focused on class-based academic learning and results – often contextually void, and those cooked books we’ve come to know as league table standings. Stand back guys, see the forest for the tree’s. A degree no longer guarantees a career opportunity – and while higher learning is a grand thing, there are cleverer ways to help our children find their direction and access further learning opportunities.
I could get really extreme and suggest that we are doomed as a species if we continue to lockdown/bully, standardize & socially manipulate the teenage mind – our future, in dated environments that often lead resilient kids to disengage.
In fact any kid. Ask the kids what they think of it all.
School Principals barking on about high expectations, are often caught in their own Orwellianspeak. Their expectations are blindingly low if they consist largely of teens jumping pass-rate style through the schools pre-ordained hoops.
Have we learnt nothing?
In many cases our kids, fluent with facebook and X-box, have ‘already left the building’, even if their bodies have to be round to satisfy the rollbook. If you’re not up on it, facebook and X-box excellence are valuable skill indices where etiquette and prowess doesn’t come easy. Not just a few employment opportunities demand such experience.
Consider this picture – the average age of a high school teacher in New Zealand is now 50ish. Attrition rates are high – 50% of newly trained teachers are lost from the sector within the first 4 years of their practice. The profession could do with greater social standing.
It’s not easy actively focussing and engaging 30 different kids 5 times a day – John Banks should try a term or two. And the money should be better. Way better.
JB’s words about untrained teachers lifted enough ears to start a debate. And with it an opportunity for the teaching profession – especially high schools, to take the lead and change what they do and how they do it.
What needs to happen to make best of this opportunity?
One key thing. The will and commitment of high school principals with their Board’s backing, to invest in their community resource – feel confident that if they get it right, they’ll get it back in spades. Great leadership is relational and empathetic. They must show vision and courage by leading their teams of teachers into redefining who, what and how they operate. It’s about building a culture.
Boards of trustee’s would do well to support their senior management teams with skill-set builders like shared leadership training.
Teachers may well feel challenged or threatened, so the will of the leadership must be passionate, focused and well referenced. Schools will need to actively prospect across business and community, networking and shoulder tapping individuals and organizations, formalizing mentoring programs, and in doing so provide kids with fresh faces and experiences.
Individual schools can make these calls – how they prioritise their resource – human and financial, is up to them.
Lastly and most importantly, we as parents … what choices will we make? Will we continue to enjoy the custodial convenience that schools afford us, or are we prepared, if we’re not already, to actively get in and assist teachers to mentor some of our own childrens peers.
John Banks plays fast and loose with his political mouth – could be the medication. Either way, he got a reaction. Lets use it.
Baz Caitcheon has three children at high school and one at university.
His high school teaching years included a stint for the Ministry of Education as an advisor.
He currently lives on Waiheke Island
Baz Caitcheon有三个在高中学习的孩子，一个上大学的孩子 。他曾经是新西兰教育部的顾问，现在居住在激流岛上。