Why do teachers think they have to re-invent the wheel every year?
Recently I was speaking at an event for newly qualified teachers where I had a conversation with a young teacher. Something she said to me has stuck in my mind:
“My plan is to develop a filing system of all of my lessons so that eventually I won’t have to worry about planning lessons – for any given class, I can just go to my file and pick out the relevant material.”
In the teaching profession, as with other professions, we talk about teachers’ responsibility for maintaining and improving the quality of their teaching practice. For example, teachers in England are expected to meet a set of standards, which includes
- making use of research about teaching and learning,
- employing a range of teaching methodologies and
- actively developing one’s knowledge and practice.
Now the internet allows for so much more sharing and collaboration between professionals of all sorts – and sites like The Guardian Teacher Network and the recently launched O2Learn can offer ideas and resources that could only be dreamed of just a few years ago… so why not embrace them?
This teacher’s plan was to work out a series of really good, interesting, well researched and compelling lessons that would engage young people and then, seemingly, repeat them almost like the repertory performance of an actor.
Is this wrong?
If you’ve got a good well worked out lesson, why not use it again year after year? You could argue actors do. You could argue concert pianists do. You could even argue professions like solicitors, accountants and even surgeons work to some kind of regular template to practice the more routine aspects of their profession.
Time pressure on teachers is enormous and they need to develop routines and systems if they are to function effectively, let alone thrive. Is it realistic to expect teachers to be continually revising and improving their practice?
I think that new teacher’s comment raises important questions about teachers’ responsibility to ‘improve’ or ‘actively develop’ their practice. Some would say that there’s always some great new idea or fad, the latest flavour of the month, about how to teach, and that teachers are always being pressed upon to try this or that new method. Others would say that teachers have a professional duty not just to maintain but also to improve their knowledge, skills and practice, (for example, by engaging with research).
Should we expect the duty of professional people to include constantly improving their practice rather than merely maintaining it?
What do you think?