This quote is remarkably true about the Art of Teaching, in many different ways.
The ability to see and make connections is a crucial ingredient for a genuine modern teacher. It is our ability to see and make connections that enables us to integrate subjects, to make learning inter-connected and to see that learning – in many shapes or forms – exists in every single moment.
In my experience, there are teachers who – regardless of training or qualifications – just have the ability to walk into a classroom and see the relationships and connections that exist between the types of learning going on. For example, they can see how a student’s desire to learn how to cook is also an opportunity for them to develop their ability to read, do measurement and understand scientific principles. They can also see beyond that into the possibilities of writing and publishing cookbooks, publishing recipes online, creating tutorial videos and developing their ability to explain through speaking as well as writing.
There are also teachers who need to see it to get it, who need to be shown… maybe a few times. These teachers may need to rid themselves of their own experiences as a student – some of these are very deeply ingrained – as these may have limited their ability to see connections for some time. They may also need to rid themselves of the things they learned when they were being trained as teachers. Many teachers were, to put it bluntly, trained to be very dull, disconnected educators. Some of them burst out of those shackles as soon as they see what it is truly possible to achieve with students, others may take a little more coaxing – its a bit like the different ways that animals react when released from a cage!
Sadly, there are also teachers who will simply never see the connections that exist between different types of learning and will, therefore, never make those connections for their students. Their teaching will forever remain as isolated lessons and skills. The thing is – these are often lessons that do need to be learned, and skills that do need to be developed. So we have a real dilemma about what to do with these teachers. Do we try and get rid of them? A year with them could, and often does, put a student off learning forever. Or do we treat it as a “year-in-waiting”, a year developing crucial skills that the students will – eventually – begin to see the purpose of later when, if, they are fortunate enough to have some time with someone who helps them make those connections?
I’ve been thinking of an idea that might make me and my colleagues play to our strengths for the rest of the year. I think we need to spend some time working out who we are as people, what our interests and strengths are and what we are terrible at or unwilling to do. If we can become more aware of our competences and incompetences, we can work more fluidly and allow each other the space, time and trust to develop things from our own perspective and expertise as part of an honest team. For example, I am a pretty disorganized person. I start a lot things that I don’t finish and I have trouble with keeping records. I need reminders about events and about deadlines for things that are not immediately important – in my opinion! But, will I change? Should I change? Do I have to change? These are my fundamental weaknesses, but I have many strengths too. Rather than try to eradicate my weaknesses or enforce that I do things in a way that does not come naturally, should I be trying to use my strengths as much as possible safe in the knowledge that there is support for the weaknesses?