Candles going “back to the chalkboard”: How time spent teaching doesn’t necessarily mean better practice

There’s one thing about teaching that makes it different to most professions: You don’t always get “better” the longer you do it.

Many career paths involve mastery learning- first you train, you intern, you observe. Then you learn from mistakes as you muddle through. And eventually you’re an expert and you train others.

In teaching, as your time on the job increases, your pay goes up and your workload may increase. Your job title may change, but some other things happen too.

1. You realise that there is no such thing as a perfected educator. I say perfected and not perfect because I think that if you do your very best using all the skills and knowledge you currently possess, then you can achieve a “perfect” result (ie meet the objectives/intentions/outcomes.) However, the longer you teach the more it becomes apparent to you that your craft will never be perfected. This is because research consistently shows that one technique is inferior or superior to others, that the brain works differently to what scientists previously thought, that this program or that is more/less suitable to use in schools than initially planned. All too often, as time marches on, teachers have to rewind the clock to reassess methods that were used in the past, which receive a “comeback” in a new light.

2. You recognise that your clientele dictates your pedagogy. https://ateacherislikeacandle.wordpress.com/2018/09/26/candle-clients/

What I mean by this is that the most successful learning activities from last year won’t necessarily be able to be duplicated this year because the students in your class have different wants and needs. Incidences of learning disabilities are on the rise and new ones crop up all the time. In other words, you are always going to need to try new things, your repertoire of “tricks” is never going to be complete.

3. You discover that the most honest, informative and applicable feedback you will ever receive comes from the students that you teach. These students are the ones who are infinitely more aware of the future world they are preparing for and entering into. Therefore, a good teacher becomes increasingly humbled and positions him/herself more and more as a learner alongside his/her pupils.

4. You truly understand what it means to “not know what you don’t know.” Your awareness is constantly shifting as your primary and secondary research informs your practise. In fact, the longer you teach, the more your horizons broaden, allowing you to see many things that you previously had no idea about. As you become more reflective and you step back to see the “bigger picture”, you are able to spot the chinks in your own armour. Being a teacher means you are forever going “back to the chalkboard”; redesigning learning experiences to reflect your growth in understanding of the world of education.

5. As you progress through your teaching career, WHAT you teach changes, HOW you teach changes, WHO you teach changes, so WHY you teach changes too. In a society where you are taught to “better yourself”, teachers yearn no longer just to get better at their job, but, beyond that, to make the world a better place.

A great teacher is like a candle- it consumes itself to light the way for others.

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