19 November 2012

It's Because We're Seen as Automatons

(Fig. 1) The teacher of the future.
In my last post I claimed that the one thing we could do to improve our teachers is to pay them better across the board. In this post I'm going to point out that it's unlikely because the bureaucrats above seem to consider us to be automatons.

To be precise, an automaton follows a specific set of coded instructions. It's really as good—and as bad—as its instructions. Whenever we get new regulations, new rules, new quality-control tests, and other new forms of disrespect from superiors, I can't help but feel like an automaton. As if teaching is a simple conglomeration of robotic tasks.

But do I really disagree? Considering how easily-replaced a robot can be, especially considering all the interchangeable parts, it would appear that yes, we are easily replaceable. And many teachers are definitely automatons: mere dispensers of centrally planned curriculum. All they need is the right curriculum to dispense, and they're suddenly good teachers.

I'm assuming that most honest people would admit that their best teachers were not robots. They were creative, they were intelligent, and they probably didn't just follow some textbook. But even considering this laud, how important are good teachers anyway? Everything I've been hearing lately points to things like poverty and parental involvement as the most important aspect of a child's academic success. Is it even worth trying to get amazing teachers?

Consider another trend in education: Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Every bit of attention they get is a bit of detraction from classroom teachers. Once again, the idea is that if the curriculum is sound, the teacher doesn't matter. Thanks to the internet, we don't even need a human dispenser of curriculum. (See Fig. 1)

I don't mean to sound like a Dangerfield teacher, getting no respect over here. I'm just constantly wondering how to improve my own classes, and that leads me to consider education as a whole, what the problems are and how it could improve. And the reason this came to mind was that as I was daydreaming the other day, I thought, "What if [whatever great idea I've had lately] actually changed everything. If every teacher had it, and was taught how to use it, it would revolutionize education."

I was basically thinking of teachers as robots. They just need the right set of instructions.

But, in defense of classroom teachers, it really isn't that simple. It takes a good teacher, a good employee anywhere, to recognize good ideas that would benefit their work. It takes a creative person to come up with a way to apply it. I love reading about things other teachers are doing to liven up their classrooms. Sometimes I can apply it, sometimes I can't. So I'll continue blogging about my harebrained ideas and occasionally someone might find use for one.

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