Saturday, February 17, 2018

Lent Half-Term 2018: In Bed

You know that thing when you get your period whilst fighting a cold that is making you hot and sweaty at the same time as being shivery chilled.

Then you're stuck in bed for the week and forgo showering in case you faint in there.

Then you get stomach/back ache and a weird vaginal pain that reminds you of a UTI, so you worry you've given yourself an infection by being too poorly to wash properly.


But then you find some maximum strength flu capsules with caffeine: suddenly you are superwoman ready to tackle all the chores (housework and homework that needs to be marked) and horny. But it only lasts a few hours and you're back to coughing and not being the right temperature.

Yeah, that.

Lent Half-Term Holiday 2018: when I really, really needed to get loads done, but couldn't/didn't.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

So, I'm a teacher now...but who exactly am I supposed to be teaching and why should I bother?

Having completed a PhD, started by own learning and business advisory company, and worked as a consultant, I am now a teacher - I needed a steady pay check because I bought my first house.

I am deeply passionate about education - I think the joy from discovering something new is the best feeling. My vision of heaven is that I spend the eternity in a library containing all the books that were ever written.

But I am facing a conflict: I have always been very clear that I don't like teaching and that I don't like children. Though it has dawned on me recently that, actually, my real feelings are thus:

1. I don't want to deliver material by standing at the front of a classroom telling the students what to write down from the whiteboard/PowerPoint. I really want to coach, guide, train, support people (not just children) on learning journeys whereby they and, consequently, the world are better for it.

2. I don't like apathy - if you don't have a fire in your belly to learn absolutely everything you possibly can before your own flame dims and dies, then we are not philosophically aligned. You might argue that their belly-fire has been dampened by learning difficulties, boring teachers, a home-life that doesn't encourage development, etc. and I am trying to accommodate that within my assessment of students within my classrooms.

So, I don't like most teaching and I don't like most children.

What should I do? Find another job in education...or find a different way to teach and/or different students.

I discovered blended learning, flipped classrooms, VLEs, etc. at Christmas: Canvas by Instructure is my current love affair - free, easy, comprehensive, supportive - their Community of experts and users is very approachable and full of top insights to make the most of the platform.

I embraced all these non-didactic ways of teaching - and the students weren't interested. They wanted chalk-and-talk, for me to tell them what to memorise for the final examination.

It also turned out that they had no study skills (didn't know how to annotate a document, how to take notes and listen at the same time, etc.) and their IT skills were almost non-existent (couldn't refresh a webpage, didn't understand search query formats like OR and quotation marks).

Admittedly, they are only 16 years old, but they are not from underprivileged backgrounds - there is no poverty of access or opportunity - they are at an elite fee-paying school. I suspect they simply lack any real motivation - either that or they are so cowed by the stress of achievement that they can only go through the motions in class without any real enthusiasm. Perhaps they feel certain that a good university degree and job await them, perhaps they are certain they won't - I teach Economics, so they know all about the increasingly competitive globalised labour market.

But a moral dilemma remains...

I believe every child should be encouraged to be the best version of themselves, to reach for the highest attainment. But with increasing number of college/university graduates unemployed I have to ask - are we making them stretch for something unattainable?

Should we accept that some students need expect careers where they stack shelves and sweep the streets? We aren't likely to get the robots yet, which will make these occupations obsolete - but that will happen soon. What do we say to students who don't want to be a call centre operative, a waitress, or social worker...who don't want to work in the burgeoning service sector at all? Is manufacturing definitely dying? Will there by any blue collar jobs left in a decade's time?

Or is it that university degrees aren't fit for purpose? Do they simply not provided the skills and personal characteristics that employees seek, which is why so many graduates work in jobs that don't require degrees, and then, to make themselves more employable, do a Masters or other graduate training?

Or is it that we need to create growth so that more jobs are created? Should we get the government to invest in supply-side policies that allows the economy to growth?

Or is it that we need to reduce immigration (and NHS funding for certain treatments - cardiac arrests in middle management, alcohol/drug overdoses in teenagers, car accidents/suicide attempts in the recently graduated) so that fewer people are competing for the jobs...?

Is education just setting up people for disappointment?

Charter schools in the USA have awesome, tear-inducing Youtube videos about eager students yearning to attend college (university). They see it as the gateway to success.

I'm not sure that is the case in the UK - either graduates aren't looking hard enough for work (maybe the Bank of Mum and Dad safety net is too high) or they really cannot find suitable jobs. But they better grab what they can - they only have to look at youth unemployment in Spain to realise that things could be significantly worse.

Charter schools in the UK could be a worthwhile endeavour - helping those with the very lowest aspirations to make their contribution to the world. This would at least align with my libertarian economic philosophy of helping people help themselves.

So, I'm a teacher for now, but maybe there is something else I could be doing in education...LGBTQ support, instructional designer, multi-sensory impairment specialist... 

I guess the world is my oyster: I wonder how many students say that nowadays and really believe it.
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