Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Forgotten Teacher

If there was one thing that Sunday night taught me, it's that Twitter can be an amazing tool for generating discussions about a topic. Often, as it would seem, way into the wee hours of the morning. If there were two things that Sunday night taught me, the second would be that I have something I want to ask myself: Why do I want to be remembered as a teacher?

The question was first asked to me by Oliver Quinlan, a lecturer at the university, after I made a throwaway comment about my role with the Student Teacher Resource.

My initial rationale was simple - I remember the teachers that made an impression on me (for good or for bad), but those I don't remember... well, I have nothing to remember them for. The good teachers I will remember for inspiring me, pushing me to do well or generally make the lessons interesting. Steve Wheeler sees things pretty much the same by the looks of things:

I remember my chemistry GCSE and A-Level teachers really well, for example, because they had the ability to engage my practical side through experiments. I mean, who would forget that potassium burns with a violet flame when you get to burn paper that's been soaked in potassium chlorideA cheap trick, maybe. But at the end of the day, I still remember what colour flames are produced when alkali metal solids are present. Of course, this leads into teaching facts vs process, which I don't want to touch on this time. What I got out of the showmanship however, was a much greater interest in the subject, that it caught my attention (What teenage boy doesn't like playing with fire?) and then spurred me to engage with the learning and even go on to find out more about the subject. My point is, that if you're forgotten it's not likely you've made an impact on that child.

Oliver, being Oliver, asked the question again. Why do I want to be remembered?  Well I look back on my time spent with these teachers and I see how, many years later, what I learned from them is still with me, whether it be fact or process. They have made a lasting positive impact on me, so why would I not want to do the same for the children I teach? 'Yes!' I think. 'I actually answered it this time'. Apparently not. I'd answered the 'what' I want to do and not the 'why'.

Is trying to inspire children not an admirable trait of a teacher? Is there a reason why teachers aren't allowed to feel good about doing a good job? Of course, I'm not saying that teachers are merely in the role to satisfy their egos, but doesn't everyone derive satisfaction from being successful in something they love doing? If you don't feel good about yourself for being a good teacher, then one can argue that it's probably not the right job to be in. 

Oliver finally asked 'How does feeling good about yourself help the process though?'. I think that this is a simple one to answer. Motivation. It's motivation to keep teaching, it's what drives teachers to succeed, to keep going through rough patches because at the end of the day they know that those moments of success make it all worth it. Surely people become teachers because they want to have this positive influence on their students? I know I did. I'm not afraid to say that I want to be remembered as a teacher, not because I want to feed my ego (anyone that knows me knows how modest I am) but because I want to have made a significant positive impact on those I teach. As I usually try to do, I'll end this with a tweet. Who says pride is a sin?

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