For things “to happen” in class, a teacher must excite, agitate and ignite the fire within each student.
How would you like to be remembered as an educator? Me? MAD! Meaning, as someone who MADE A DIFFERENCE – each time I entered a class – of high-flyers or under-achievers.
Four decades into the calling and still counting (as a freelancer in teacher development) I’m always happy to make a “passion for education statement.”
From experience I’ve learned that it’s all about making a connection with the bits and parts that contribute to effective teaching, one that creates an enjoyable learning experience and positive impact on the learners.
I was once invited by a private university on Teachers Day to talk about my experience and passion as an educator.
I chose the title Only Connect, which comes from E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End – a book (also a film) about human connection. Now, isn’t teaching also about that and more?
An awareness of this critical and complex process challenges educators to Make A Difference wherever they are through a series of connections between the various components that help make learning a fulfilling undertaking. Since experience is the best teacher for success (don’t just read ‘grades’!) I list here some component-connections that helped me make my sessions come alive for me and my charges, both students and teachers. This ability to connect between the bits and parts that matter made me go MAD in a roomful of participants anywhere! I’d like to think I’m still happily MAD. Now, to be MAD try connecting between the following and more!
• Theory and practice
• Teaching and learning
• Teacher and learner
• Interaction and communication
• Language and action
• Desire and the need to learn
• Subject and pedagogical knowledge
• Flexibility and rigour
• Goodwill and love
It has been reiterated and backed up by research that among all the school factors the teacher factor is the most important determinant in the efficacy of the teaching-learning process.
The effective teacher creates a meaningful and lasting impact on the learner because of the difference s/he makes in the personal and academic life of the learner by connecting with them through the learning process. An effective and empathetic teacher propagates a positive learning culture, motivation and dedication among learners to make learning a joyful and come-alive experience because s/he knows the How-What-Why of making the learning and teaching connection.
That is why my personal-professional experience prompts me to say that the education process should not become so rigid, so institutionalised, so sanitised/clinical, so standardised that learners’ individuality and their remarkable diversity is slowly but surely squeezed out!
The education make-up is a complex mass – a connected happy ‘mess’ if you like, and the more resilient the connection, the richer the learning outcome.
Many of us know that the greatest danger to the teaching profession is when you reduce the “living” act of teaching to an automated/mechanical sequence which when sufficiently repeated becomes efficient, but not necessarily effective nor affective because of a disconnect.
Aristotle rightly cautioned, “We are what we repeatedly do.”
An educator’s passion and enthusiasm is infectious. While we cannot force-feed learning, enthusiastic educators can mobilise learners’ motivation to learn, handle information and experience, develop their attitude, skills and knowledge and help them transfer this learning to the real world.
Way back in 1938 John Dewey prophesied, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”
He added, “The most important attitude that can be formed is that of desire to go on learning.” Don’t we keep hearing that our country is bent on instilling a love for lifelong learning among its populace? Are we doing it right? Do reflect.
All said, an educator must become a “knowing manager of learning” with an ‘abundance mentality” (as stated by author and educator Stephen Covey). I’ve mentioned before that educators should not teach just to “cover” the syllabus; on the contrary, please teach to “uncover” the syllabus, to reveal the richness, the fullness and the connection, the joy and value of learning for life, not just to pass exams.
For this you need a good dose of enthusiasm, “Nothing great is ever achieved without great enthusiasm” said American educator and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Meanwhile I have my own signature quote that guides me, “The power of ability is the passion to make things happen.”
An often heard stereotype describes people as being of three types:
Those who make things happen
Those who watch things happen
Those who ask, “What happened?”
I have used this to my professional advantage by starting from bottom up. For example:
• Post lecture/lesson – I ask myself, “what happened here?” – and make notes to raise self-awareness of where I am , what and how I am doing as a practitioner.
• Watch/observe/reflect on what happened – a form of appraisal to gain insights on the just concluded act of teaching/lecturing. I note my strengths and weaknesses (based on learner response/feedback).
• Act on insights obtained to improve “ to make things happen” better next time round.
It’s a rudimentary act of action research en route to becoming a better educator. I did this through keeping a job journal. It’s a mission-vision-action entwined endeavour towards self and professional growth if one has the passion to make the connection so that learning happens!
In this context I’m reminded of the famous French thinker Anatole France who said that teaching is a “subversive” act – in that it must not only inform and remind but must also EXCITE, AGITATE, and IGNITE the fire within.
On a milder but no less effective note, Mother Teresa said to keep filling your lamp with oil to keep it burning and as educators we are a part of this mystery we call life – we are kindlers of this mystery and that’s what makes teaching exciting and inspiring but only if we know how to keep the connection – within and without – alive! Lucille Dass The STAR Home News Education 15 Mar 2015