Thursday, 4 September 2014

Reflective teacher - 30 day blogging challenge, day 4

Today's question is a classic - 'What do you love most about teaching?'

I've been mulling this one over and it helps me to compare what, in my mind I do now - 'teaching' with what I did a few years ago - 'training'. Training people was generally about achieving the aims of the organisation. It was great if workers enjoyed it, and grew and developed along the way, but ultimately the needs of the company had to be met. Increased productivity, fewer absences, and lower staff turnover was generally the name of the game - where I worked, anyway.

If you look at the government's agenda around the education of adults, I would suggest that these aims are broadly similar. Jobs teaching functional skills and 'employability' are everywhere, and I teach these things myself. So if I'm doing similar kind of work, why do things feel different for me now? Why do I enjoy it so much more and how come I'm more creative than I've been at any other point in my career?

The truth lies in the word 'Teacher'. Simply by calling myself this I have opened a world of possibly for myself and my students, and it is mainly about growth. Training feels limiting and functional (you 'train' a dog). In 'teaching' there is the wriggle room to do things differently, be truly inclusive, consider the individual, question things, reflect and grow, be yourself. As a teacher I allow myself the freedom to write, make connections on Twitter, continue to read (though I don't have to). Of course there will be many trainers who do all this too, and more, but I do think that we are often limited (or conversely, emancipated) by the words we select to describe and identify ourselves.  What connotations do the words you choose to use about yourself have, and are they limiting?

There is also, in teaching, a respect for self-development that I haven't found elsewhere (not shared and respected by all of course). It's about professionalism, but something more than that - especially if, like we do, you teach for a social purpose, believing that education really can change lives, communities, and the world. Importantly, this all starts with the teacher and the faith that we can be the best we can be, if we are prepared to work at it and want it enough.

My thoughts have rambled a bit here, but I think what I'm essentially trying to say is that teaching for me is believing in the capacity within every person and ourselves as teachers to grow and develop.  It's about questioning, and looking at things in new and liberating ways.  The very process of spending 20 minutes or so thinking this through and writing about it - and the pleasure I've taken from it -  sums all this up for me, in a 'meta' kind of way :)

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