30 Years Ago

24th March 2006 at 00:00
John MacBeath, now professor of education at Cambridge University, was head of Barrowfield Community School in Glasgow, an experience which made him reflect on learning and teaching - before it was called that (TESS, March 26, 1976): One of the, perhaps uncongenial, conclusions is that the Barrowfield area needs neither qualified "professional" teachers nor the soft-hearted romantics of the free school. What Barrowfield, or similar areas, need is almost a new breed of teacher. The first qualification is that he or she should be acceptable to the pupils. This is not normally a criterion to which we pay much attention in Scotland. The idea of children sitting in on the selection of their teachers might even shock those who believe in the omniscience of professional judgment, but Barrowfield Community School believes it is an essential prerequisite of learning.

The second qualification is that the teacher should be able to win his pupils' allegiance or (non-deferential) respect.

The third qualification, which is closely allied to this, is the willingness of the teacher to see his teaching-learning not in terms of the hermetic compartments of the classroom but exploiting the community, the city, the suburb and the countryside. He should be able to communicate to pupils that education is not learning about life as spectator but is living, choosing and acting.

The fourth qualification is the rather traditional one of master teacher, not perhaps with the traditional emphasis on a well-defined body of content and method, but rather emphasising an imaginative insight into how skills and knowledge may be acquired, and concomitantly a breadth of personal learning on which to draw.

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