The final blogpost of the month (!) is a real call to action from Wellington-based teacher trainee, Jack Du.
The Duality of Teacher Training
My name is Jack, and my passion is science. Scientists were my aspirations and I became one myself a few years ago. Research was fun, but the lack of human contact was not. Soon I discovered my love for teaching while tutoring in undergraduate labs. As a result, I decided to enroll for the Graduate Diploma of Teaching and became a student teacher this year.
Teacher training is a curious thing: on the one hand, it is a practice, requiring hours of hands-on experience at schools; on the other hand, it is an academic subject, guided by research and taught in tertiary institutes. The duality is logical but at times confusing to me. Not unlike the wave-particle duality of light, the practical and the theoretical sides of teacher training worked perfectly when separate, yet formed a contradictory picture when put together.
The theoretical framework of learning and teaching was a useful one. The assignments even made me examine my own education past with intense scrutiny and explore the ways of delivering theoretically sound “perfect” lessons. I was even taught how to set student expectations and manage behaviour issues. Then the first placement came. Most of the theories were thrown out of the window. And before long I realised that the most important things that make a good (student) teacher, are the things that cannot be taught: a love for young people, a passion for the subject and a willingness to learn and reflect. Behaviour management comes from experience, but it gets easier when the students know that you care about them. Lessons do benefit from a “hook-in” or two but nothing substitutes a teacher’s genuine enthusiasm. Learning from associates and reflection became my main source of improvement. I learnt to chunk my lessons after losing my students with 5-minute talks. I did not learn it from TCol because 3-hour lectures were commonplace; I learnt to walk around the classroom after being reminded by an AT. I did not learn it from TCol because the lecturers never moved around in 300-people lecture theatres; I learnt to use informal assessments frequently after discovering that giving feedback was more effective than giving grades. I did not learn it from TCol because every course I took ended with a 3-hour paper-based exam.
Every day of placements was exciting and satisfying, even though everything was just as overwhelming and exhausting. Every time I left the schools at the end of placements, I wish I could just keep doing this, forever, instead of going back to TCol, where one’s ingenious lesson ideas could be marked down because of “insufficient link” to course literature. Don’t get me wrong. Theories and research in education are important. But I do not believe that great teachers are made in lecture theatres.