If we want thinking children, we need thinking teachers. This is the premise of my book ‘The Thinking Teacher’, in this series of posts I am sharing some of the key ideas from the book and the thinking behind them.
In this chapter I explore the idea that people should go into teaching for the reason that it is a job they love.
A great many teachers go into their career to do a job they love. It’s a hard job, one that tests you frequently with many different and complex issues to balance and being ‘on call’ for the majority of the working day makes it difficult.
The difficulty is that under significant pressure, it is quite easy to fall out of love with a job, or at least begin to think that the stresses and strains it involves are not worth the trade of. Hence we have around half of new teachers in the UK deciding to do something outside of the classroom by their 5th year in the job.
It can be quite easy to fall in love with something, especially when it is as compelling as helping people to achieve their potential. However, it can also be easy enough to fall out of love when the going gets tough, the received wisdom on relationships seems to be that keeping love going is the real challenge.
My thinking on this was hugely influenced by a talk by designer Brett Victor, which I have mentioned on this blog a number of time. Victor talks of not doing something because you love it, but because you have a principle that can be achieved by doing it. His principle is that ‘creators need to have an immediate connection to what they are creating’. This not only engages him with the work that he does, but shapes it’s direction and the decisions he makes.
Teaching only because you love it doesn’t give any particular direction, other than perhaps to perpetually follow activity you enjoy.
In the book I argue that whilst love can be eroded by the stresses and strains that seem to oppose it, a principle is far more robust as it shapes the way you approach the work and the direction and outcomes you are trying to aim for.
Constructing a principle to work from takes time, far more than getting the bug for something as a job you enjoy. There’s nothing wrong with getting that initial bug and wanting to continue to pursue a career in something but that is not the foundation on which something can be robustly built.
Teaching is important work, and all teachers should base their work in a principle. It takes time, reflection, study and self examination to come to a principle that can guide all one’s work, and this I think is a key part of teacher education as an induction into the profession that sometimes does not get the time it needs.
Finding a principle takes study of those of others, it takes asking hard questions of oneself and being asked hard questions by others. It is so easy to based these principles on assumptions picked up in one’s own education. These are strong assumptions, that have had many years to be ingrained, part of becoming a teacher is placing these under significant scrutiny. Some will not withstand such scrutiny, some will and be left more justified as a result.
Loving what you do is the fun part, but teaching should rest on firm principles that keep you doing what you love even when love is not enough.