Today’s ODT editorial looks at the push to higher education for teachers, versus what makes teaching effective in Various degrees of teaching
Teachers play a significant role in the development of young people, some of it good, some of it bad.
I was taught stuff but largely uninspired by my education. Since leaving school most of what I have learnt that has been of benefit has been on the job and self taught.
In what must be one of the last acts of Education Minister Hekia Parata, she is backing a shift to make would-be teachers complete a degree in their chosen subject as well as a post-graduate qualification in teaching.
The Education Council is moving towards a position that all people wanting to become teachers – in early childhood, primary and secondary – should be required to have a bachelor-level degree, as well as a post-graduate level qualification in teaching.
One thing inherent in the success of any teacher is the ability to communicate with pupils of all ages. A teacher can be the brightest and smartest person in the room, but without being able to change the motivation of pupils to believe it is in their best interest to learn, success will remain elusive.
The most highly educated teacher I had, Professor Nimmo, ‘taught’ me 6th form physics – if you call writing screes of words on a scrolling blackboard that we were supposed to copy verbatim and learn from. While I knew how to do enough to pass exams that was very uninspiring.
The teacher who connected the best, albeit in small patches, was someone teaching outside of their main interest. It was hard to package the prose Shakespeare and a comparison of West and East Pakistan in an exciting way, but I remember Graeme Sydney trying a few tricks to stir interest up. He was an inspiring rugby coach, which was my real passion. A couple of years later he left teaching to go pursue a career in painting.
A degree in a subject is a good thing, but there are concerns a post-graduate degree will lead to qualification inflation, where teaching methods are secondary to a list of letters after a name.
At an early childhood level, the most important qualification is understanding human behaviour and development, rather than content. How the youngest in the education system develop has a life-long effect on their lives, as the longitudinal study run in Dunedin continues to show.
One of my grandkids went to a very good Early Childhood Centre. I have no idea what qualifications anyone there had, but the kids loved them and they had them doing all sorts of fun things – including working together to write a book illustrated by the kids.
The only thing I remember from my pre-school was sitting on the mat waiting to be given a quarter of an apple for a snack – that seemed very odd because I picked my own whole apples at home.
The Education Council is moving towards a view of all teaching training in the future being at a post-graduate level. This goes back to the core purpose of the council, to raise the status of the profession.
But the ‘status’ of teachers is a self-interested focus, effectively teaching kids should be the priority.
I know of a teacher from twenty years ago who had a van so he could sleep in it to avoid drink driving – whatever his qualifications were they didn’t determine his status.
Having a degree convinces employers the person has the ability to learn, understand and adapt – all important traits for teachers. However, the ability to literally teach a subject must be the most important consideration.
Surely any post-graduate teaching degree must concentrate on applying the valuable skills of motivation and communication.
I love looking up topics of interest online, I do it a lot. It’s far more interesting and effective than reading a text book or encyclopaedia. But I’ve obviously changed a lot since my primary and teenage years.
I have done a lot of looking up stuff of interest on the ‘net with grandkids, but if given the choice they would choose to watch cartoons or play games.
The competition for gaining children’s attention and teaching them things they will enjoy and benefit from must be a real challenge for teachers today.
I’m not sure how a post graduate qualification will help that. By the time a high falutin’ course has been developed and taught things are likely to have already changed again.
Teachers need to be able to learn as they go, and keep up with the play, because that’s what kids have to be able to do.