I keep getting into conversations about education these days. What's the matter with me? I've obviously fallen into lassitude to be so easily dragged back to my former self. Today's was about the people who teach the teachers - those aspirants who've gone through the selection process and made it to training college. Now, I'm basing some of what I'm about to say on the assumption that the government don't think the current selection process is sufficiently rigorous, and the rest on my own memory of my year at college. And that, best beloved, was not yesterday, nor even last year. I actually know nothing at all about the people who teach the teachers these days, and nothing at all about how they got their jobs in the first place. But I'm going to toss a few thoughts around nonetheless - and perhaps some gentle reader will be able to lighten my darkness.
I'm going to start with a few questions:
What makes someone go for a job in a College of Education? Presumably they start off in schools. Are college staff significantly better paid? Or do they prefer to work in a less challenging environment?
How are they selected? Are they required to demonstrate mastery of their academic subject? To show how well they teach a class? To talk a storm at an interview? Is there any written examination or practical test (maybe like preaching to a congregation who are looking for a new minister?)
Having got the job, what is their primary aim? To demonstrate how to do the same job as the teachers the students experienced perhaps 4 years ago? To show how to put a lesson across? To discuss new techniques and new media? (I know of at least one lecturer who might well answer in the affirmative to that). To ensure that their students actually like children before they start?
Do they spend much time teaching in classrooms as a CPD exercise?
And I'm going to reflect:
When I was at college, I loathed it. After a 3 year MA course I found it at once restrictive and vague. Quite apart from having to be there from 9-4 and wear a skirt (both, presumably, easing us back into required behaviour for the job) I actually had no idea what I was learning about. This was especially true in my two subject areas. In English, I learned nothing at all. Nothing. In Latin, the nice little man who taught us (a class of 4 students) had such a boring delivery that I routinely fell asleep. It's embarrassing when your head actually hits the desk, in a class of 4.
There were classes in Educational Psychology - which is where I think I heard the instruction that when confronted by an unruly class we were to "exhaust the response". And classes in Drama, which I loathed - I can't remember why, but the lecturer kept coming to look for us in the cafeteria at the start of the afternoon, so we were obviously not keen. And were there discrete classes in Methods, or was that in the subject classes?
In all that time, no-one ever told us that it was essential not to be boring. Mind you, if they had, we might have laughed in their faces; I have never been so bored so consistently for so long. And no-one ever suggested that we had to be passionate about our subject and about communicating that passion. Naturally, no-one ever gave us practical work in demonstrating how we might do that.
Yes, I learned something in that year at college. But I learned it in the three schools where I was sent on teaching practice - by watching some excellent teaching, by talking to the people I'd been watching, by making mistakes and suffering the slow death of the period when you've run out of material and don't have anything to put in its place.
And 30 years later, I'd say I was still learning. But I always knew that there were still people out there living behind a barrier of worksheets, boring their pupils to death, sending them to sleep in the period after lunch.
So, if you're out there, the person who knows the answers to the above, gonnae put me out of my misery?