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 consider our relationship with systematising what it is that teachers do, and why the idea of ‘systematising’ teaching and learning often generates animosity.
Teaching is fundamentally about communication and therefore it is steeped in our relationships. A great many people go into teaching precisely because of this; they want to be in a job where they can develop relationships with people, see first hand the difference they make, and enjoy the process of interacting with people.
You only have to look at discussions over the last few years in the UK about Ofsted, the regulator that inspects schools, to see how resistant people are to the idea that there might be a ‘right’ way to teach, that there might be a model that we should all follow.
Yet so many other areas of work use systematisation to grow what they do, could it be that our reluctance to systematising teaching is holding it back? Or is it that this area of work is so dependent on human subtlety that it could never be successfully systematised?
In this chapter I explore some models of systematisation, from Roger Martin’s thoughts on how knowledge is turn from innovation to standardised scale, dance band The KLF’s tongue in cheek but challenging story of achieving artistic success entirely through systematically emulating others, and Tim Ferris’ systematic approach to learning new skills by taking on the minimum needed to get by.
These models act as counterpoints to examine how we might build up habits and systems as teachers that free our thoughts for ever more powerful teaching. It’s easy to be resistant to systems, they take effort to devise, and can be hard to get started with. It’s tempting to just ‘wing it’, and to try to sail through the magic of teaching, and get lost in the undoubted complexities of classroom relationships.
What level of systematisation you decide to adopt for your teaching is up to you, but in ‘The Thinking Teacher’ I urge readers to at least consider what the limits of this might be, and whether there just might be something in making your teaching more systematised.