Not ‘just’ a teacher – becoming a teacher every day.
First off a big ‘wow, gee, thanks’ to Edmodo for giving an Aussie the opportunity to be a featured blogger! I thought this post would be a great opportunity to introduce myself to other Edmodians (is that the collective noun for edmodo users? I think it was coined by Thomas Scheeler a long distance Edmodo colleague. If it’s not the right term, I think it high time someone told me what it is – or else time we create one!)! Whenever I am asked a tricky question about a particular online digital tool, program or techie device, I often find myself saying, ‘What would I know? I’m just a teacher’. I’ve even introduced myself online and at conferences as ‘just an English teacher’. I’m constantly told by people to stop saying ‘just a teacher’ because it sounds as though I am excusing my professional status. And it’s funny because I know I’ve never said it as a means of criticising my profession. Call it a case of Orwellian ‘false modesty’, but definitely not a criticism of the job we do.
Yet I can see where my colleagues are coming from when they correct me. I guess it’s a bit like mothers who say ‘I’m just a mum’, attempting to excuse some perceived social failure by not having ‘become’ a professional something-or-other. But just imagine if the majority of women decided that there were too many barriers to becoming a mother: the hours are long, the pay terrible, the working conditions can be poor and the job stressful. Imagine that they decided to do a different job with greater social currency. Society would be in a bad way, wouldn’t it? Now here’s a little thought experiment for you: replace the word ‘women’ with ‘high school graduates’ and the word ‘mother’ with ‘teacher’. Society would be in a bad way, wouldn’t it?
When I was studying to become a teacher we were given an assignment to reflect on our experience of being a prac student (this is what in Australian we call pre-service teachers when they teach for a few weeks as part of their teacher-training). This one assignment I remember well because it was the first time I acknowledged that you can never actually ‘be’ a teacher, instead you are always ‘becoming’ a teacher. Our profession is dynamic because life is dynamic and it is our responsibility to educate the citizens of the future. This idea that our profession is constantly evolving can be quite daunting. And to be honest it’s an evolution that is resisted by many – most often not by the teachers themselves but by the systems within which they work. It takes a determined effort to resist the traditional teacher-centred model simply because it is a model that our colleagues and more importantly our students have come to accept. To sit quietly and face the front, to have a workbook and a pen in hand, to listen to teacher and take notes, these are the expectations of our students. Bringing digital technologies into the classroom – especially mobile devices such as mobile phones, ipads, laptops, netbooks and iPods – simply makes retaining a traditional classroom organization and teaching-style both impractical and ineffective.
It’s taken teachers one decade into the 21st century to realise that true change (at the risk of sounding like a self-help propagandist) must come from within. Big changes are made more easily by individuals than by big organisations. Before real changes can happen, a teacher must acknowledge there is a need to change their practice in order to better serve their clientele – the young learners in their classes. And, for me, this is where my conviction lies. I must keep evolving as a teacher – keep ‘becoming’ a teacher – if I am to best serve my students now and in the future.
So that’s my introduction – I’m an English teacher at a public high school in Australia. I’m not a head of department, a deputy principal or a principal. I am a passionate classroom teacher working within the public education system agitating for changes to the traditional teacher-centred education model. That’s what I’ll be blogging about for the next 10 or so weeks. If you’re reading this post, I’m going to assume that you’re a passionate educator working hard for change too – I hope my posts inspire you in some way to keep up the good fight.
I know I have raised some contentious issues in this post, and please feel free to respond to any or all of them by posting a comment below.
Yet I do have one final question for you to consider: In what practical, self-directed ways are you agitating for changes that will directly benefit your students?
Bianca Hewes teaches high school in New South Wales, Australia. The opinions shared in this entry are her own.