Teresa and I were travelling in Switzerland and ended up in a tiny drinking establishment up in the mountains. The bar was some planks of wood held up at each end by a barrel. We sat ourselves down to have a quiet beverage or 2 and we got talking to some of the locals and fellow travellers who were there. I was asked by one person what I did for a living. I replied “I am just a teacher” You would think I had just said “I kill kittens” I received a major lecture on NEVER saying “just a teacher” because teachers have one of the most important responsibilities in society. I was told in no uncertain terms that I was to never think like that and never to say that.
I never thanked that person for changing the way I thought of myself and my colleagues but I have told this story to many people to remind them to be very proud of the major role they have in shaping those that will develop the future.
It is possible to be “just a teacher”. They are described in Australia as handbag teachers. They arrive quite late with just a handbag (or bag in the case of male teachers) and leave quite early carrying the same thing. They know exactly what year 5 do at 10:20 on Thursday, week 2, Term 3 because that is what they have always done and will keep doing until they retire. They are not the type of teacher that my friend in Switzerland was referring to. No doubt she would not consider them to be real teachers.
What is a real teacher? People all over the world have their own ideas of what a real teacher is for them and that is the key I think: how that teacher connected with that individual has created a lasting image of what a teacher is. At times that can be negative but for the vast majority it is an image of someone who cares enough to take the time to see each person as an individual and to help those individuals feel good about themselves and their ability to learn. I could probably find all sorts of lists of characteristics of a good teacher but for me if I can say that I have helped people feel good about themselves as a person and a learner then I am more than “just a teacher” and that is important to me.
Real teachers are also real learners. They are constantly looking at new developments and finding new ways to source the information they need to support the learning of those around them. They have taken to Twitter, Pinterest, Scoop-it and a multitude of other online places where they can connect with other like-minded teachers but just as importantly with other teachers with different and challenging thoughts and ideas. They attend PD sessions and conferences, they spend a lot of time (and money) attending, listening, reading, exploring to ensure that they can offer what the learners in their care require. They share their knowledge and experiences and in turn benefit from others sharing with them.
Real teachers not only challenge those they are teaching but also challenge themselves and their colleagues. They reflect on what they are doing and explore ways that it could be done differently or better. They try different ways when a learner in their care is not connecting with the methods being offered. They seek out the knowledge of others to help.
If I could go back in time to that bar in Switzerland I would give quite a different answer to the question. I would be proud to say that I am an educator and learner, not “just a teacher”.
Educators are fantastic and noticing all the amazing things that others do. They notice the brilliant things their students do but they also notice the little things, the subtle changes in a student, the mastery of a new skill, even a tiny one. They take every opportunity to point out the best in others, to acknowledge the amazing work of a colleague, a leader, a friend. Every educator I know can tell me about the incredible things that others do. What we are not so good at is pointing out the amazing things that we do. Comments like “yeah it was OK but you should see what …. does.”, “I’m not doing anything out of the ordinary” or “ I’m sure there are lots of others in the world who do it better, have more knowledge than me, push further into the future, are more cutting edge than me” are more the norm than the exception, particularly in Australia. Maybe it is because we are a selfless profession, that what we do is for the benefit of the children in our care not for ourselves. Maybe we don’t want be seen to be, as Australians so eloquently put it, up ourselves. There are lots of reasons but that doesn’t mean that it should stay that way. We need to begin making changes to the way educators view themselves so that there is a change in the way others view our profession. If we don’t value ourselves how will others?
As always there is a reason for my meanderings and it is to do with valuing yourself and what you do.
One way to do that is to be recognised in a dynamic professional learning network by receiving an EdTechSA award!
Every year EdTechSA has the pleasure of recognising educators across our state who have contributed to the leadership and implementation of best practice in learning with ICT across the curriculum and about IT as a discipline. As an award winner, your knowledge and skills will be recognised by a panel of respected peers and you will open up new professional networking and leadership opportunities.
Now is the time to nominate for the EdTechSA awards for 2016!
To find out how, follow this link to the EdTechSA website to learn more about the awards we have on offer.
Remember that the deadline for awards applications is 30 September 2016 so now is the time to apply!
Candidates for the awards must be individual members of EdTechSA.