You know me, I don’t beat about the bush. I’ve finally managed to get my planning done, but I’m feeling anxious about the start of the new term and I know I’m not alone in not being able to fully enjoy the Easter weekend. Why am I anxious? It’s because progressive ideology and the teaching/assessment etc methods that are associated with it requires me to constantly worry about children. Let me illustrate my point (and then I’ll talk about a solution):
Child-centred education essentially puts the adult on the back foot. So, the typical teacher will have to, ideally, differentiate teaching and learning for the individual child, personalise marking and constantly assess, assess, assess each child in every single subject, updating various APP-type systems as they go. This means that all the effort and worry of children’s learning is transferred to the teacher, trapping them in a never ending state of chasing and hoping and generally not being in control. Furthermore, and this is probably more of an issue in primary schools, unlike the other professions where being ‘professional’ means keeping a healthy emotional distance between front line worker and client (for example, in the police force, officers are minded not to get too emotionally involved for the sake of their own health), teachers are actively encouraged to get overly emotionally involved with children in order to be able to ‘teach’ the ‘whole child’ and also cater for the child’s ‘needs’. Anyone who questions this is at risk of receiving a hefty dose of emotional bribery: deemed to be ‘uncaring’ by those on high who have either never stepped foot in a classroom, or have left that exhausting place a long time ago.
The bonkers nature of this system is fully exposed when you consider how humans normally organise the more repetitive parts of their lives through the use of ritual and routine, a sort of human version of ‘automation’ that outsources the worry and makes us all more efficient and in a better state of mental health. This could be anything from how we manage to get ourselves of bed and out of the door for an early morning run, to falling into a routine of weekly meal prep that saves the household ‘cook’ from constantly having to dream up new and exciting dishes for everyone’s delectation. When we walk a familiar route to the shops, do we make sure that every single time we go, we change the route a little, perhaps opting to hop, skip or jump our way there? No, each time we get a little more efficient: choosing the exact place to cross the road where cars naturally slow down for example, soon we don’t even think about it. But the teacher who is minded to follow and use the teaching methods associated with progressive ideology is effectively expected to take a wiggly walk to the shops. with no walk ever allowed to be the same. Teachers are barred from outsourcing worry, using a teaching and assessment version of ‘automation’ or becoming more efficient because a) she must try to follow/plan for each and every child’s learning ‘needs’ (the thought-process equivalent of trying to stab a single ant among a hundred other ants) and b) constantly dream up new and ever more exciting ways to pique children’s interests. Then of course we have to consider the extra burden of worrying about children’s feelings constantly which is EXTREMELY draining.
You know what the answer is? Yes, you guessed it. A massive switch to the traditional side of education would, I believe, save the sanity of teachers and dramatically reverse the trend for teachers to leave the profession in droves. You see, I think it’s not so much the long hours that is the main factor in driving teachers away, it’s the fact that they can’t let go of anything and they are forced to worry all the time. This surely must be the mental oppression equivalent of doing 30 PhDs at once, forever.
By teaching the subject and not the child, the former is a much more stable entity that can be codified and delivered as a neat package of information divided up into ‘chunks’. with regular testing. The ‘worry’ can be outsourced to textbooks and the use of efficient methods of teaching which involves ritual and routine can save the teacher so much mental energy that would have otherwise been sunk in trying to dream up ever crazier lessons. The use of frequent testing and healthy competition transfers ownership of learning back to the child, who is then incentivised to work hard. Rules and regulations regarding behaviour and giving respect back to the teacher also puts a healthy emotional distance between the child and the teacher; the child is able to trust the teacher, but doesn’t overstep the mark and the teacher’s mental health is protected.
Happy, relaxed teachers.
Who’s with me?