My journeying

chalk to meWhy go backwards in my journeying? Or maybe it is going forward? I will know in time.

But right now it is because my stories are stale. In my journeyings I have discovered to be a good teacher educator there are a number of criteria that you must successfully meet. The first is that you are yourself, and have been at some time in the past, a teacher. It is difficult to engage pre-service teachers with an understanding of the depth of practice and pedagogy that is required by the teaching profession if you yourself lack this experience.

Next, you actually need a good theoretical understanding of teaching practice. It is not enough to do what you do, good though you may be. You really need to know why, and why what you do works. Your students – the preservice teachers in your classes, lectures and workshops, need to gain from your knowledge, not just the tricks of the trade, useful though these may be (and I know that is what many say they only want) these only last a day a week a year at most, and then they need more if they are to be successful in their own journeying as a teacher. They need to be able to reflect and draw on a deeper understanding of practice that is grounded in solid theory – drawn from philosophy, psychology, sociology and pedagogy. And these must be, as Linda Darling Hammond and John Bransford in their wonderful book, Preparing Teachers for a Changing World, based on research.

Finally, as teacher educators, we need our stories to tell, stories from the chalkface. The all-important practice that we draw on provides a context for our students and for us alike. “I know this works because I tried it here and there. I used it with my year 9’s. This is a strategy that works with grades 3-5 … This is a sample of role-play writing from a 4-year-old child … humour works well with 16-year-olds because …”

But my stories were lacking in relevance. For more than 10 years the world in which we live has changed. Radically, irrevocably. High school and primary school students face different issues and concerns. And the problems we faced as teachers in our journeying have changed. My story about a revolver in the playground lacks relevancy in a society where violence has changed, and where cyberbullying has become a major concern. My experience with a child in a wheelchair pales into insignificance in classrooms today, where you would be glad to only have one child with a physical disability. Now classrooms have children on the ASD register, children with multiple disabilities, ADHD, a variety of learning difficulties, ESL, and the list goes on.  The work has got harder, and the demands on the teacher are greater.

And so I have come full circle in my journeying, to see for myself, not as an outsider, or researcher, but as a participant, actively taking part in the changes of the day-to-day of the classroom.

Stories from the Chalkface

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