30 years ago

21st January 2005 at 00:00
A teacher-centred education was the plea from Lawrence Denholm, headteacher of Tomintoul Secondary, writing in The TES Scotland of January 24, 1975:

Morale is directly related to the perceived importance of one's work, and it is important to establish the role of the individual in determining as well as performing his task.

Too many teachers - and this is particularly true of secondary graduates - regard teaching as a demeaning occupation, one in which they find themselves by some bitter quirk of fate, and from which they hope to extricate themselves as soon as possible. But if no other employer is interested, they remain in the profession and, over the years, the bitterness becomes almost a uniquely pedagogical mode of consciousness.

There are reasons, of course. Far too often teaching is a demeaning occupation, not simply in terms of status and salary - we have had that much broadcast from the rooftops - but in terms of the functions the teacher is called on to perform. Isolated for much of the working day from contact with other adults, shut period after period in a room with children at best indifferent, at worst actively hostile, he is aware that he can compete neither in status with the pop star nor in influence with the television.

The continual rejection both of his subject and of his person can be as dehumanising as any assembly line job: worse at times, because at least on the assembly line the central core of one's being is not involved. In the classroom it is.

It is little wonder that jobs in school which diminish class contact time are much envied and eagerly sought after. Because of their apparent desirability, the status of their holders is correspondingly enhanced and that of the classroom teacher further diminished.

But in an educational system whose salary structure rewards academic distinction or administrative work at the expense of classroom expertise this is perhaps to be expected. A child-centred education needs an adequately teacher-oriented administrative and salary structure before it can hope to be successful.

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