maandag 7 april 2014

Smart Teachers?

I have a few routines that I love on a Saturday and one of them is drinking a cup of George Clooney coffee and diving into the weekend press. I love it to just for once not having to closely watch the time and first check if my lesson plan is printed out and all my materials are ready for the next fun learning challenge I have got in store for my lovely students. Saturday is the day that I can put on denim and that the 100% cotton Petit Bateau underwear and a warm croissant of the local bakery are all pure weekend bliss.  It is then that I am in weekend mode and can take deep breaths and empty my brain and catch up with the outside current affairs. Stallie then eargerly digest most of newspaper articels and loves to find out what others think about what is going on in the world.

So when I today was about to embark on that routine I did hear over the news that one of our former university rectors thinks that the teachers of our national are in general not highly intelligent and not equipped to future challenges. In that same interview he is quoted that he urgently calls for a educational reform.  On top of that he points out that the profession lacks a certain appeal/respect and he also says this in that same interview:In mijn jeugd was de schoolmeester een respectabel beroep van een zeer hoog intellectueel niveau. In sommige landen is dat nog altijd zo. In Finland hebben ze een toelatingsexamen aan de universiteit om leraar te mogen worden, en bovendien zijn alle leerkrachten er universitairen.'

Uhm, now first of all nothing in that interview is new. Nothing the very intelligent professor at rest AndrĂ© Oosterlinck says in that piece has not been said before. I can even tell you that I more then once have been called 'just a teacher' and I even have parents who question their children's career choice if they choose for teacher. My own father did.  I will never forget the day that I left for college to kick of my teacher training.  It did seem like I was already a dissapointment. Fortunately he did change his mind about that but I am quite sure that the teaching profession lacks some sex appeal.

I do agree that new teachers need more training and that their present studies do not cover enough what matters in order to survive the educational jungle. Theory and practice are still not in balance when teachers in Belgium are trained. Plus becoming a teacher takes time, effort and also patience. It is not because you have got the degree that it will guarantee you a carefree teaching career. In the 21st century so many things change and this with the blink of an eye.  At the time I decided to hang out one more year extra on the campus of my teaching college in order to specialize in special needs and it was only in that year I found out if I was fit enough to enter a classroom and suddenly realised that it takes so much more.  Yes, I did then over and over point out that a four year teaching training is perhaps a better way to train a teacher. In that one extra year I was granted the space and time to feel at ease and secure in a classroom. It was in that extra year that I turned into a 'up for battle' teacher.

But do I find respect? Do I consider myself intelligent enough? Do people look down on me? Do some people make comments about my profession? Do I sometimes feel like I have to defend myself when people talk about lazzy and dumb teachers? Do I have to point out that those vacations are a nice extra and did influence my choice at the time? Do I wonder if being a teacher in the past was so much eassier? Do I experience days that I feel like I am rather on a island instead part of a close knit  team?  Do I sometimes not feel always that fully equiped and prepared to face the next change that I am about to deal with in my class room?   Do I wonder what it must feel like to be a teacher in the Japan, the USA, Finland, Congo or in the Netherlands? Do I agree with most of what the minister of education says in the press about his educaitonal future plans?  Do I long back for the days that AndrĂ© Oosterlinck describes in his interview? 

Well,most of the above questions I can answer with:'Yes,I do.' But I am also willingly to say that I don't think it is fair to talk in such a manner  about my profession. Believe me there are many teachers out there who try to make the difference There a so many people out there in who in their classroom try to give each pupils and student excellent education.  Plenty of teachers are willingly to embrace change and try out new things.  I have seen so many things around me that tell me that there are enough teachers who are ready to give day in day out there very best.   And I am not just talking about the people who I work at my educational hot spot. No, I have seen so many excellent examples of good practice.

It does make my blood boil if I read such news articles because I take my profession very serious.  When I was at university I wanted in the first place use my knowledge inside of a classroom but I was one of the few in that lecture hall. Most of my fellow students had totaly different plans with their university studies.  I am not sure what it takes to make teaching a more appealing profession. Let us be honest it are not just teachers who are not that much regarded with respect. Yes, it is true that more and more teachers seem to think that teaching is not that their core business and that the red tape linked to it makes them rather feeling like a desk manager.  So it will not be that easy at all to just reform the teaching training .

The suggestions made By some specialist is first of all to get only the people who in the first place choose for education and also make them all trained specialist who spend at least 4 years in a learning and study environment. I am do agree that it was only in my fourth year of studies what I sometimes call my 'test phase-'year that I felt more confident to enter a classroom.  So yes, it would make sense to train future teachers longer but please do not do this in a confined & artificial spot. And yes, I have met some very courageous people who suddenly changed their mind in the 'private' professional world to become teachers. Brave people who did not go over just one night of thin ice.  The knowledge they drag into a room full of future world citizens full with future dreams is essential as well. But they also need time to adopt and they then find out that teaching takes so much more then putting together a animated power point presentation.

Nope, I don't have the answers when it comes down to reforming the educational professional world. I just know that it takes a lot more then just to make the training phase a bit longer.  It will take so much more and it will take more then just group together the students with the highest IQ who are willingly to transfer their knowledge into the brains of children.   Let us be honest we all have been students, we all have come across great teachers and less great educational talents...  Future teachers will have to face students,management, parents,society, a world that just has got very high expectations of them... but that is in every single profession/job the case.

But it would be nice if a 16 year old will be a more encouraged to take teaching as a serious career option.... and that is when many of us can play a very important part. A career path is a road that many young people embark on with very high expectations and it is the more experienced people (and that is Let us first of all stop using less respectful language about any profession and it would be nice that journalists also think twice to put a more profound heading above a newsarticle. And any newsitem deserves a well thaught of headline.

PS: In case you wonder if you are 'smart' enough to be a teacher and you speak Dutch then try to answer the following 92 questions that in 2012 about 1000 student teachers were asked to answers. I know my score and no I am not going to share that one out here.  But it was enough to make me smile... A smile comparable to the one I see on a student when I hand them back a high grade.

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