A piece of paper does not make a teacher

Wednesday, August 1, 2012
7:00 AM

I agree with Michael Gove.

To send a link to this page to a friend, you must be logged in.

There, I’ve said it. And I will now have to have a long lie down to recover. I might also have to change my identity to cover up my shame.

The only thing that might contribute towards my rehabilitation from this revelation is that I only agree with him on one issue - the appointment of unqualified people as teachers.

In case you missed it (as was the Whitehall plan, judging by the timing of the announcement on Olympics opening ceremony day), academy schools can now hire unqualified people to teach their students.

With ministers pretty much forcing schools to become academies, that means the move will affect most, if not all, schools in future years.

Before I go on, I must make it clear to my bosses that this is not a resignation letter. I am very happy as a journalist.

However, for some years I have felt the frustration of the current system, which insists on a degree and a year of teacher training.

I have neither. And I have no prospect of being able to find the money or the time to rectify that.

But I do have something that no qualification can guarantee - passion.

I am passionate about literature, passionate about the English language, passionate about the power of learning and passionate about passing all of that on to young people.

The teachers who made a lasting - positive - impression on me all had that quality.

So why should the path to sharing that passion and inspiring youngsters be blocked by a system that promotes the virtues of academic qualifications and allows little room for external inspiration?

As the move to allowing unqualified teachers takes shape, there must be checks and balances.

Recruits must be trained, observed, monitored and employed at first on probation. After all, nobody wants to see entirely unsuitable people teaching our children (as if that would ever happen).

But that is the devil in the detail. The big picture is that a door has been opened to allow more flexibility to schools to seek out and employ the very best people to inspire their students.

And I believe that there are countless thousands of suitable candidates out there:

● People who have run their owns businesses, who would be able to teach business studies

● Retired sporting stars who could inspire future sporting stars

● Actors who would bring some “lights, camera, action” to drama lessons

● Technicians and web designers ready to bring immediacy and inspiration to IT lessons.

For two reasons, teachers stick in our minds as we grow up: either because they were utterly inept or entirely inspiring.

We must all remember particular teachers who made us want to turn up to lessons and want to learn.

People like Mr Mackay, the supply teacher who covered English lessons for a month and inspired me to become a journalist. Or Mr Dearson, the maths teacher who perceptively prised out pupils’ potential.

I didn’t think “wow, how qualified they are”. Instead, I remember thinking “what an inspiration”.

I suspect they would have been equally inspiring without their pieces of paper. That’s because they were answering a calling, not simply pursuing career opportunities.

6 comments

  • Well said, Steve. You mightn't be a Tory, but you - like me - are a libertarian, who likes to question authority and wonders whether things mightn't be done differently. This proposal is excellent. I went to a rather strange independent school and was taught by a range of absolutely teachers many of whom, I suspect, didn't have formal qualifications. Many of them, however, had been in the Real World for many years before teaching. I have sometimes wondered whether my extensive experience as a science journalist wouldn't be useful for teaching people starved of science teachers...

    Report this comment

    Henry Gee

    Thursday, August 2, 2012

  • It isn't the piece of paper I got at the end of my PGDE that made me a teacher; no, it was the hard work, effort, passion and drive that got me through a very steep learning curve. I had previous TEFL teaching experience and passion for sport, literature, current affairs, science, the Arts.... but it didn't prepare me for the muti-faceted nature of being a classroom teacher with 30+ learners all with varying needs. I have been lucky enough to attract nice labels like 'inspirational' but passionate delivery alone does not create that atmosphere in your classroom. You have to have a knowledge of pedagogy, how children learn and draw on as much professional development as you can to create memorable lessons, constantly assessing how much learning is taking place and building on it whilst caring deeply that your learners are improving and thriving in your classroom. There is a place for visiting experts and partnerships with artists, businesses and other talented individuals - it has been a feature of my classroom. However subject knowledge and passion without a sound understanding of learning and assessment in my opinion does not make you a teacher. When and how to question, how to differentiate activities, how to check children 'get it', how to support bilingual learners...just a fraction of what it means to be a teacher. If anyone truly wants to become a teacher, giving the time to training and engaging in ideas about how to get the best out of every lesson, delivered passionately of course, is what our kids need and deserve. I am in my seventh year of teaching and in many ways still feel like a beginner, particularly with the rapid proliferation of technology. I am embarking on a Masters because I don't think you can ever 'know enough' about the craft of teaching, and I care about being the best teacher I can. I hope any talented individual who plans to stand in front of set of learners understands the intrinsic nature of teaching as a learning profession.

    Report this comment

    Jem Anderson

    Thursday, August 2, 2012

  • It isn't the piece of paper I got at the end of my PGDE that made me a teacher; no, it was the hard work, effort, passion and drive that got me through a very steep learning curve. I had previous TEFL teaching experience and passion for sport, literature, current affairs, science, the Arts.... but it didn't prepare me for the muti-faceted nature of being a classroom teacher with 30+ learners all with varying needs. I have been lucky enough to attract nice labels like 'inspirational' but passionate delivery alone does not create that atmosphere in your classroom. You have to have a knowledge of pedagogy, how children learn and draw on as much professional development as you can to create memorable lessons, constantly assessing how much learning is taking place and building on it whilst caring deeply that your learners are improving and thriving in your classroom. There is a place for visiting experts and partnerships with artists, businesses and other talented individuals - it has been a feature of my classroom. However subject knowledge and passion without a sound understanding of learning and assessment in my opinion does not make you a teacher. When and how to question, how to differentiate activities, how to check children 'get it', how to support bilingual learners...just a fraction of what it means to be a teacher. If anyone truly wants to become a teacher, giving the time to training and engaging in ideas about how to get the best out of every lesson, delivered passionately of course, is what our kids need and deserve. I am in my seventh year of teaching and in many ways still feel like a beginner, particularly with the rapid proliferation of technology. I am embarking on a Masters because I don't think you can ever 'know enough' about the craft of teaching, and I care about being the best teacher I can. I hope any talented individual who plans to stand in front of set of learners understands the intrinsic nature of teaching as a learning profession.

    Report this comment

    Jem Anderson

    Thursday, August 2, 2012

  • Totally agree with you Steve just in the same way that a handful 'good' exam results doesn't always make a good employee whatever the vocation! Not to mention the 1000's of parents who home ed, no qualifications there, just drive and passion, without targets and tick boxes determined by someone else!

    Report this comment

    catalonia13

    Friday, August 3, 2012

  • It isn't the piece of paper I got at the end of my PGDE that made me a teacher; no, it was the hard work, effort, passion and drive that got me through a very steep learning curve. I had previous TEFL teaching experience and passion for sport, literature, current affairs, science, the Arts.... but it didn't prepare me for the muti-faceted nature of being a classroom teacher with 30+ learners all with varying needs. I have been lucky enough to attract nice labels like 'inspirational' but passionate delivery alone does not create that atmosphere in your classroom. You have to have a knowledge of pedagogy, how children learn and draw on as much professional development as you can to create memorable lessons, constantly assessing how much learning is taking place and building on it whilst caring deeply that your learners are improving and thriving in your classroom. There is a place for visiting experts and partnerships with artists, businesses and other talented individuals - it has been a feature of my classroom. However subject knowledge and passion without a sound understanding of learning and assessment in my opinion does not make you a teacher. When and how to question, how to differentiate activities, how to check children 'get it', how to support bilingual learners...just a fraction of what it means to be a teacher. If anyone truly wants to become a teacher, giving the time to training and engaging in ideas about how to get the best out of every lesson, delivered passionately of course, is what our kids need and deserve. I am in my seventh year of teaching and in many ways still feel like a beginner, particularly with the rapid proliferation of technology. I am embarking on a Masters because I don't think you can ever 'know enough' about the craft of teaching, and I care about being the best teacher I can. I hope any talented individual who plans to stand in front of set of learners understands the intrinsic nature of teaching as a learning profession.

    Report this comment

    Jem Anderson

    Thursday, August 2, 2012

  • I fully agree,a piece of paper does not make a teacher.The same applies with a driving licence.Just because a person holds a driving licence it does not mean that they could become good driving instructors.Communication between teacher and pupil is essential.

    Report this comment

    john kendall

    Monday, August 6, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Norfolk Weather

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 26°C

min temp: 18°C

Five-day forecast

loading...

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT