(Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1IxsZTb)
In New Zealand when I first decided I wanted to be a teacher there were 4 different colleges to choose from, three of which were very accountability based, the last was the ‘high-risk-artsy’ one. Of course I chose the ‘high-risk-artsy’ one!
The last one was a kind of educational experiment whereby the college believed that interesting creative people made the best teachers. The core of the curriculum was all about teachers choosing areas of study that they personally had a passion for e.g. drama, art, sport, painting, photography etc. Three quarters of the course was about a developing your passion and the last quarter was called professional studies where basically you learned how to fill in an attendance register and organise a lesson plan.
So anyway being the ‘high-risk-artsy’ type I made sure all my time was spent developing my artistic skills and film making abilities. Proudly I can say I managed to make a variety of different pottery items, a series of short films not to mention a range of batik scarves that all my family and friends received for Christmas.
So as you can see this was quite a crazy thing for the New Zealand Education Dept to do, and yes it was high risk because after three years we were flung out into the teaching world, some of us completely unprepared but feeling passionate, dynamic and creative, and others completely collapsing into a world of daily grind and monotony.
The results in the long run however were always very interesting. By the end of the first 5 years the dropout rate from teaching from our college graduates was high – maybe even as high as 70% (including myself initially!), however after 10 years the leaders in education were all the ones who stayed, stuck it out and come through to become the most amazing creative movers and shakers in Education in the country.
Sadly about 10 years later this college was completely compromised and became just like the other colleges in New Zealand which meant very prescriptive courses, and only ‘teaching based’ classes. The reasoning? Because they could not quantify the teaching ability of anyone who came out of our college as there were never any exams or grades, you just had to show a passion for life.
It’s really only now that I look back on that experience and realise how (I believe) truly on track and forward thinking this college was. And the results of that last 30% who stayed in it was something the Ministry of Education could not see.
It wasn’t until 8 years later I re-entered the teaching profession and saw the huge change that had happened. Teachers were being made accountable for student’s grades and outcomes. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do think teachers need to be appraised and assessed, however instead of trying to find an appraisal system to measure the quality of the passion and innovation, they forced the teacher to squash themselves down into a standardised box that had already been set by the testing department.
I was also quite horrified to find that such concepts as ‘teacher of the year’ awards were also born. Again trying to quantify the skill of a teacher into one measurable box. It was very shocking to me to find that we were all encouraged to work towards winning this award, when to me to quantify the whole teaching skill into one award was complete nonsense, that every teacher who showed a love and passion for education and learning should be awarded this everyday.
That some teachers really sparked the interest in some kinds of students and other teachers sparked the interest in others. Let’s face it, if we are all asked to say who was the most amazing teacher we ever had, we would all say someone different, why? Because we ourselves are all different people with different loves and needs.
So the future of education now is all about in fact getting back to this whole idea of being passionate and unique, of being able to be a facilitator of learning, of being someone who questions, encourages students to take risks in learning, to think outside the box and be themselves, just like the teachers from my old teachers college were encouraged to do in their course.
I’m so happy now that finally these things are happening because for many years in teaching I kept wondering if there was something wrong with me, that I wasn’t being acknowledged by the school for my skills but being highly valued by the students and the parents.
In the end, actually, I never worried at all about what the school thought of what I was doing I just took the risks anyway and thought ‘to hell with them!’ I can only be me here, and if they hate it then fire me! And strangely enough, I never got fired from any teaching position, ever!
So what does that tell me? It means that everyone knew that what I was doing was right so let me be me and do it, but no one could dare try to change the system so that we could all feel comfortable to do the same.
Tell me about your experience teaching or being taught by a really creative teacher, what is your memory of them? And do you think teachers are forced to be way too accountable for students results?