I’ve been thinking about how “good teaching manifests itself as caring” and passion and caring drives a teacher to provide the best education she can, and I have been thinking about this as an ethical commitment inherent in the teaching profession, as I think Buchmann would argue (Prof. Van Galen). Sir Ken Robinson and Seth Godin have gotten me questioning whether caring about our students is enough when we have to do the caring within the industrialized schooling we are familiar with. While it is relatively innovative for the entire teaching profession to take up the moral obligation and commit themselves to justifiable work, we can take the innovation even further and challenge the factory-like system itself. Compulsory education must be one of the few structures that still looks the same as it did since its inception. It clearly does not work for far too many students and Sir Ken and Godin make good points about why but it makes me wonder why it worked for some, why did it work for me?
I thrived in the school environment described by Godin–I was a “competent” student in the “competencies” as Godin defines the word. I am reliable in my punctuality, and I work well with deadlines. I rarely, really never, questioned teachers because they were authority figures. I never questioned them, even when I thought they were questionable as the authority figures I thought they were supposed to be. I won’t lie, I am slightly embarrassed to admit these things about myself (never have I ever been embarrassed about my dutiful punctuality!) because I wish I could say I was the challenger of status quo back then the way I want to be from this point on, as a teacher.
Now I am thinking that I need to channel the passion and caring, the moral obligation, and create a new competency as an educator–challenge and change the way schooling is structured so it does not benefit a few, but benefits all. So how do we do this? Is it enough to have an entire community of teachers arguing for a change in the structure when everyone else is stuck “sharpening the same pencil we’ve already got” (Godin)? How can we convince people for change when the structure already in place worked for some people, but especially for the people who have the power to carry out change? The answer I have right now is that change is going to take more than this generation. We will have to be the teacher Godin argues for by taking on a “new teacher role”: “What we do need is someone to persuade us that we want to learn those things, and someone to push us or encourage us or create a space where we want to learn to do them better (67). We will have to help our students connect their talents with who they are, and change the structure from the inside, out so that it is not the outside-in, Industrial Revolution-model Sir Ken argues kills the creativity in our students. Our students, could, I think, be “inculcated,” Godin calls it, with the passion and caring of their teachers and connect it to the innovative structural changes we need to truly educate everyone, not just a few. We could take the structural changes we need in the entire system and apply it to our classrooms, and share the responsibility of change with our students. But could this work, could there be the repercussions we envision? Do we continue our work in the hopes that future generations, the graduates of our inside-out classrooms will become the voice that “transforms education into something else” (Sir Ken)?
Ideas are forming, and I have to admit I am hearing those whispers of hesitancy Godin urges us to fight. The whispers are not telling me these changes are unnecessary–they are necessary–but whispers of whether I can handle the responsibility of this new competency, this obligation to effectively transform our schools for our students. This takes me back to a blog entry where I stated my need to have a professional community of peers. I need these peers because taking up this challenge is incredibly daunting and I would be lying if I said I weren’t a little…terrified. Also, what use is it to transform a single classroom when we need to transform all of them?