If I was Premier for this year’s ‘World Teachers’ Day’ I would hang special banners from the Harbour Bridge and Parliament House.
These banners would show a teacher drawing material from another period or place which they would be unravelling with the help of several children and young people who in turn would be forming their own shapes. The learning process thus represented has teachers drawing on their knowledge of the past or present; they then place their foot in the world of their students and translate this knowledge into the students’ context and language. This requires suitable method and appropriate language so that together in an atmosphere of trust, problems can be solved, and creations developed for today and tomorrow.
I must state my bias in writing this article. I am a teacher. I love and respect and am challenged by this role. I still have on-going relationships with some students I taught more than 50 years ago. I have taught every class from Year 3 Primary to Senior Secondary where I revelled in Maths Science and Religion. I also taught at University in Pre-Service Teaching courses as well as Postgraduate Courses and supervision of Doctoral Students. All of this involved me in much discussion of the role of teachers and their issues at all levels that were continually changing and which I followed up from an academic point of view in research.
The teacher always needs to be conscious of the student’s response to the learning process. I found I needed to watch the eyes of my students, especially in Maths, any lack of understanding or interest would immediately show there. I often needed to find a new way to focus their attention and sometimes take them along a different pathway, if my first approach didn’t reflect any awareness or enthusiasm.
I was very lucky I taught at a time when I knew and was trusted by my students and their parents and was indeed supported by them. I am very angry and concerned when I read about teachers today being attacked physically by their students or suffering from forms of anxiety attacks or mental illness, because of the growing stress of the classroom, or the behavior of the students, the lack of support of the parents, or even the administration of the School. The media seems to speak so negatively about teachers in terms of their ability and indeed their value. A teacher’s salary doesn’t suggest to the next generation it is a valued field of employment. I am not saying all teachers are perfect, but I have seen many dedicated young teachers give up their career within a few years and I know students and society are the losers when this happens.
I had the privilege over many years of serving on Syllabus Committees for both Science and Religion Studies and thus worked with so many skilled, creative and committed teachers. It is of the essence of good teachers that they will share their ideas and experience with others as they try to create a framework for teachers and students to use. Teachers are good organisers and able to plan and to see various ways to approach issues with an open mind. It is appropriate that on this World Teachers’ Day we may recall a Teacher who helped/challenged us or our children and, if possible, acknowledge them and encourage a new generation of teachers.
Pat Malone rsj
Image: Photograph with thanks to Mount St Joseph Milperra, NSW. Used with permission.