By Richard Fielden-Watkinson
We sit at home, our lives so much different in form than they were a few long weeks ago, and yet the content - the need for work, for closeness and continuity is still with us, it’s fundamental.
The virus that is sweeping over the globe will bring out the best in us and it will also cause a lot of pain. We will be able to pause and reflect, but while we do so we will see images and statistics that curdle as we consume them. It will push us to teach and to interact in new ways, but in the process it will disrupt and displace.
Motivation can overcome almost all obstacles. It can overcome weaknesses in natural ability or deficiencies in the learning environment, while in contrast a lack of motivation can derail the brightest and most talented of learners. The secret, the holy grail, the Aladdin's lamp of teaching that we all seek isn’t only how to ignite the fire of inquisitiveness but how to promote such a burning desire to improve that sustained and independent learning occurs long after the teacher steps away and after the initial excitement of being able to engage in a conversation in English has subsided.
We live in a politically correct world, for the most part. There are words and stereotypes that were commonly used half a century ago that we wouldn’t stand for now. We work hard to make sure that no-one feels his or her experiences or opinions are worth less than that of an other’s. We still have a way to go, but on whole, I would suggest -- we are on the right track. Our classrooms are mini societies and as such carry with them all the tensions, prejudices, and potential injustices that the outside world can harbour.
Teaching is a timeless profession; the Greeks were doing it, Jesus was apt, and even Einstein wanted a piece of the action, and it’s difficult to see at first what has fundamentally changed in the way we teach since Plato was expounding his theory of Forms.
But Plato didn’t have an iPad. Or Twitter. And he didn’t have access to an online language corpora with millions examples of language to compare. So what advantage do we really have now compared to our sandaled friends?
There are four aspects to this: the school, the methods, the teacher, and the student.
It is commonly claimed that teachers are born; not made, but can the same be said of a Director of Studies? Another common claim is that those who get into managerial positions are often the ones least suited to them. That may be because the people who get supervisory roles are more motivated to find ways to achieve a promotion rather than being the best candidate for the position.