Just a thought or two!

Posted: January 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

A short dialogue

“I’m thinking of taking my family to the Point B Restaurant this Friday.”

“Don’t – we went there last week, and the kids didn’t eat a thing!”

“Oh, was there something wrong with the food?”

“Well, ours was delicious, but the kids just refused to try anything. Surely, a good chef can present food in a way that kids want to eat it. They just said that it didn’t look anything like MacDonald’s, and then proceeded to complain for the rest of the evening.”

Another short dialogue

Dr. Jones is hopeless. I took Jason there last week, and he diagnosed him with a severe infection, which required penicillin to cure.”

“And that was wrong, eh?”

“No. That bit was fine, but after that all he did was write a prescription and tell us that Jason needed to take the tablets with meals. He did nothing to motivate him to take the tablets apart from pointing out that he may lose his arm if he didn’t. Doesn’t Jones realize that kids of Jason’s age can’t think long term!”

Ok, I suspect most people would see the two dialogues above as ridiculous. Surely, it isn’t up to a chef to make sure that kids eat the meal, neither should a doctor, in most cases, be expected to ensure that a patient takes their medicine. So why has teaching gone from something where teachers are meant to provide a quality education, to something where they’re also expected to motivate the student, as well?

I know some of you will be saying that of course a good teacher motivates students, that’s part of their job. And I don’t deny that truly outstanding teachers motivate as well. I’m just questioning why we see it as part of the job of a teacher.

Below is a typical selection criteria for a teaching job:

1 Demonstrated knowledge of initiatives in student learning including the Standards, the Principles of Learning and Teaching P-12 and Assessment and Reporting Advice and the ability to design curriculum programs consistent with their intent. 

2 Demonstrate an understanding of how students learn and effective classroom teaching strategies and the capacity to work with colleagues to continually improve teaching and learning. 

3 Capacity to monitor and assess student learning data and to use this data to inform teaching for improved student learning. 

4 Demonstrated high level written and verbal communication skills and high level interpersonal skills including a capacity to develop constructive relationships with students, parents and other staff.

5 Demonstrated commitment and capacity to actively contribute to a broad range of school activities and a capacity to reflect on, evaluate and improve professional knowledge and practice.

You’ll note, while some of the criteria imply a capacity to motivate students, it’s not an explicit criteria.

I don’t have a problem with the fact that really good teaching will motivate students. And I am quite sure that some teachers use their students’ lack of motivation as an excuse for their own shortcomings. But the fact remains that creating a culture where it’s the EXPECTATION that a teacher should be the inspiration leads to a lessening of the responsibility of the learner in the process of education. It lets them off the hook. And, while we’ve probably all heard a teacher say to an inattentive student, “Hey, I don’t need to pass this exam!”, the annoying part of that comment is that it’s true. However, more and more the responsibility for failure within the system is being placed on the teacher. And, to a lesser extent, the school. Not the student. Not the Government. Not the system.

No poorly performing teacher should be exonerated just because his or her pupils aren’t motivated, but similarly, all teachers should be supported to extract the potential from their students. Blaming the teacher for students who have no interest in being in a particular class, or even at school, is just like blaming the doctor – not for a poor diagnosis – but for a patient’s refusal to take their medicine.

“Why didn’t you pass Basic Breathing, son?”

“Well, Mr McSnail was just so boring. And I don’t see why I need to breathe anyhow.”



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