13 February 2011

Why Teach?

I have always been a teacher, the only difference now is it is a bit more formal with a Masters degree and a professional qualification. I have often been asked why I do not blog more about my experiences. The reality is that I work in a really small school in a really small town and my students, like anyone else, are entitled to a little bit of privacy. I also believe that building rapport and respect with students requires a certain amount of trust, and to blog about that seems to violate that trust in my mind.

I will say this though. My current crop of students from Year 7 through to Year 11 are an excellent bunch. Hopefully, I will be able to impart some knowledge and hopefully I will be able to do that in such a way that is engaging and fun.And, just maybe, they might all learn a thing or two that they did not know previously.

In a more general sense, I am going to write about my own struggles and challenges. For example, working in a school that is Smart Board ready and having never been trained on how to use a Smart Board at university.

The school where I work is committed to professional learning and professional development. So, it is quite a relief to know that the professional support needed is just a few steps away with a knowledgeable executive team of many years experience.

Yet, on a personal level, professional learning and development aside, a real challenge in a small school is maintaining high levels of engagement in small classrooms of students with a variety of learning styles. If anyone is looking to find a location where there is little or no pressure on keeping class sizes small, then head to a small rural or remote school. I have classes ranging from 3 students through to 12 students.

The reason I chose to teach was a simple one, and for me it was a real "no-brainer", if you want to make a difference and influence the future, then you teach. I always get a chuckle from the saying "those who can, do; those who can't, teach!" Because any teacher out there worth their salt knows that teaching is a much more difficult skill than just fronting up each day and going through the motions. Quite simply for value to the community teachers are exploited and under-valued in the extreme.

Teachers teach for many reasons, but one thing that I have found common to all that I have met is a belief that it is a noble profession that can facilitate positive changes in the lives of those that we encounter in the classroom. That facilitation might not simply be teaching a young person to do calculus or something about English or history, it might be providing them with the self-belief and confidence in their own ability that they can make a positive contribution to their community or the world.

I am back teaching high school now. However, it is with a great deal of pride that I look back and remember a few past students who have gone on to make very significant and positive contributions to their communities.

I am looking forward to the challenges that will present themselves irrespective of whether they be creating programs of study that are engaging and fun for students who might not have ventured far from where they were born or showing them that there is a whole world beyond Collarenebri that is awaiting their arrival. The good fortune for me is that these students are already recognised and accomplished (having attended the Arias and all -- I have not attended the Arias!). So, the challenges will be for me and not my students.

Teaching is not an easy gig, but it is a worthwhile one, and one that is destined to be rewarding.


lawbugger said...

Smart boards -never laid eyes on one. But I know they are coming. There is some resistance I have heard from older teachers. Are they a positive. Would like to hear your opinion.

Appreciate your point on privacy of students.

I have no problems with the "those who can ..." quote; I have more problem with "what to teach" rather than how to teach. NOt really separable I realise.

Aries said...

I used to have a desk job and now giving tuition lessons to school children at home. Really not an easy job but satisfying and challenging especially when some of them scored "A" I felt like I was happier than them when they told me the result.

Rob Baiton said...

@ Lawbugger...

Smartboards are a really useful tool. They are sort of projectors ++ or giant touch computer screens. And, they are good fun to boot, particularly on the engagement front.

The reality is that if one does not use one, then the students will disengage from material. They tend to want it all as interactive as it can be.

I am part of a fairly young staff, so there is no resistance where I am at the moment.

My drama is always going to be engagement. This is for no other reason than the Forrest Gump effect. "Life is like a box of chocolates ..."

I am really enjoying the challenge that engagement poses for me. That said, I sometimes get to the "mind boggles" stage as I try and wrap my head around the intricacies and variances not only of learning styles but within the styles themselves.

H. Nizam said...

Hi Rob,
I always think that teaching is the most respectable job in the world because it develop or up grade those who are teached.
Your students are very lucky to have someone who is rich with various knowledge inside and outside Australia.

Rob Baiton said...

@ Aries...

I used to have a desk job too. That said, I had a really great employer who allowed me the flexibility to teach / lecture at local universities and do some in-house training and development.

But, I hear ya on the satisfaction front. It is great to see students have that "lights-on" moment when they finally "get it". Good outcomes in exams and assessments are really icing on the cake.

Rob Baiton said...

Hey Harry...

Thanks for the kind words.

Now that I am a "real" teacher I think I have a much greater appreciation for how under-valued teachers are.

I have to say, it is one thing to be rich with knowledge, but it is a whole other thing to develop ways to impart that knowledge to others. This is particularly so if the receivers of that knowledge do not have many of the "basics" that we so often take for granted.

For example, how do you go about teaching Haiku and Cinquain to students who may never have picked up a poetry book for fun?

lawbugger said...

To hark back to my brief point about "what to teach" May I ask why teach Haiku anyway? How is it justified or how does it earn a place in the curriculum. I can think of many valid reasons; but I dont know where I would rank it in a crowded school year.

Nice one about the Freedom ride.

Rob Baiton said...

@ Lawbugger...

Broad range of poetry styles and types are allowed for. By my reckoning Haiku fits within that framework.

Aside from that, Haiku are generally fun and the students enjoy doing them. Poetry is something that is in the curriculum and it is core. It is core along with fiction, non-fiction, drama, film, and media. So, crowded or not it has to get a showing at some point.

I figured that a short, sharp, and sweet poetry unit would be an excellent choice for transition from Year 6 to the rigueurs of Year 7...

lawbugger said...

JUst to keep the thread going....I would guess you'd be more in tune with teaching rap? is that how it is spelt??

A Feminist Blog said...

the school where I have been working also has some limited number of students in each class. once in a while I write about my discussion with my students for blog, let's say in literature, history, or religious studies.