According to the Macquarie Dictionary to learn means “to acquire knowledge of or skill in by study, instruction or experience”.
Teachers are often not valued enough when it comes to learning.
For some students, school is not a citadel of learning, but rather a house of horrors. Scientists and educators have for many years documented the changes in attitudes and self esteem of students as they progress through the school system. Whilst the actual percentages may vary, most agree that young students, about eight years of age, have positive feelings about the future (“I am going to be a fireman”, or “a doctor”, “nurse” or whatever), however, in the mid-teens ages of 15-16 years less than 20 percent of students feel good about themselves and do not have positive feelings about the future.
The ability to change negative perceptions is the mark of a gifted teacher, and teaching, like all skills can be learnt.
The teacher’s first priority is to create a friendly safe environment, where the student can freely concentrate on the task of learning. This is an essential part of the process, but one that often fails.
Whenever Australia’s falling educational standards are published, the blame game starts citing a number of causes ranging from teaching to the distraction of social media. Teachers do contribute to students’ success or failure and success comes from self-belief and confidence. It is difficult for teachers to inspire students when they themselves lack self esteem, being involved in perhaps the lowest paid profession and one of the least respected occupations.
At the end of the scale, the public often views teachers, employed in our most disadvantaged schools, with the same disdain as the students from those schools.
I was head teacher of mathematics in one such school, I had a brilliant staff to work with, and the students in the school were exceptional and obtained outstanding results in School Certificate and HSC mathematics tests. My main focus as head teacher was to validate my staff and to raise their self-esteem.
Finland has employed the same tactic on a national level and has reaped the same rewards on a national level (see previous columns). Teaching is all about inspiring students, convincing them that they can learn anything with the correct attitude, teachers can only do this when they have been similarly inspired. Take some time to thank the teachers of your children, it is in everyone’s best interest to do so.
See: Western Weekender (Page 58)