A libertarian inclined blog for teachers and learners of all ages. Comments, emails and links to other educational stuff welcome.

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Next entry: Measuring educational effectiveness
Previous entry: OFSTED inspection tomorrow!!!!
Wednesday June 04 2008

I am suffering from a mild variation of Blogger’s Block just now.  It’s not that things don’t occur to me that I might write about.  My problem is, so what?  Who will care?  What does it matter what I think, report, notice or discover?  Not a lot.  What will it matter in a few years time what I now say?  Even less.  What will it matter in thirty years what I now say?  Nothing.

This, I think, is one of the reasons why childless old men of less that supreme achievement turn away from life towards education, from stirring yet again the stew of their own thinking as it bubbles towards complete insignificance, towards stirring the thoughts of the young, whose notions, good or bad, wise or foolish, do and will for a while count for something.

If that’s right, then there is something about teaching which appeals to the old which is of no significance to the young.  Those who still can, do.  Those who now can’t, teach.  Something like that.  Which is one of the reasons I believe that there is a great pent-up desire to teach in the aging baby boom.  I don’t believe I’m the only one.

What stops the baby boom from teaching is – I guess - the fear of what it would actually be like, or worse, the knowledge of this.  Lacking the vigour and savagery needed to subdue a large room full of young people who would prefer to be otherwise engaged, and denied the sort of deference which in earlier and perhaps somewhat mythical times was the natural prerogative of the old, oldies prefer to stay away from teaching.  Our government puts out TV adverts about how wonderful the life of a teacher is, how responsive, polite and eager to learn the pupils are.  We oldies fear that these adverts are lies, or why would they be so desperate for teachers?

Although, Kings Cross Supplementary and Hammersmith Saturday are actually rather like these advertisements.  There is none of the expensive lab equipment, but the same smiling faces, friendly disposition and willingness – often eagerness - to learn.

That a lot of oldies may want to teach the young is no reason for the old to be forcing their teaching upon the young.  What if the old have nothing to teach?  What if the young are not interested?  Should the young be forced to pay attention?  I don’t think so.  But many parents think that their children should be made to pay attention, and if that’s the case, I hope I am right to think that they might as well be made to pay attention to me.  In return for this compulsion, I try my hardest to pay attention to them and make it into a conversation rather than just a monologue or worse, an ordeal.

If I were teaching a particular skill, such as bomb disposal or dancing or touch typing, and if all pupils present were there on a totally voluntary basis and eager to learn that particular skill (and assuming I was the kind of teacher who is good at teaching particular things, which I am mostly not), then I might be very bossy and demanding.  It would often be a monologue, and maybe, sometimes, even an ordeal.  But this is not the kind of teaching I am now doing.