In my classroom I have a `Wonderwall'. Here, the students are invited to write down questions that their peers then have the opportunity to respond to. One 12-year-old asked, `Why do we fear death?' The reply of one of his classmates is worth writing here in full: `We fear death because it is unknown to us. If we could try it, experience it, just for a short while and then come back to life to live out the rest of our lives, we wouldn't be afraid anymore because we would know what death felt like.'
Ask pretty much any teacher these days and they will tell you, probably with a loud and united voice, that our primary role as educators is to encourage and develop in our students this type of independence of thought and action based upon their natural curiosity. We often talk about the `journey of education'; well, we're on that journey ourselves. For life.
We are teaching 21st-century learners every single day. These are people whose only tangible difference to us, the educators, is that they haven't lived as long as we have, haven't had the range of experiences we have, haven't had as many opportunities to stand up and fight for what they believe in. yet. It is our job to educate them to be brave and creative and to celebrate their diversity.
I believe that a College of Teaching would enable us as professionals to grow and change and develop; in essence, to learn about ourselves, our practice and the body of students that we are engaged with. We are the frontline. We are the people who will be responsible for educating the person who finds a cure for cancer, a person who unites nations, a person who proffers a random act of kindness to a stranger. The responsibility could - and should - weigh heavily on our shoulders. So, it would seem only right and fitting that during the course of our careers, however long the span, we have the opportunity to dig beneath the surface of what we do in order to better understand how and why we do it.
What excites me most about the idea of a College of Teaching is its independence from political affiliation, coupled with the proposition that it should be run by us, the teachers. We know what we need and we know what is missing. Surely we are in the best position imaginable to run this thing?
All education has to have a purpose. It has to meet the growing demands of this century we are hurtling through. We surely want to be at the helm of that particular vehicle? The College of Teaching would enable us to be the Captain Ahabs, the Neil Armstrongs, the Amy Johnsons steering our profession to the place we all know it should be.
A profession that has a voice is of value and, perhaps most importantly, is respected.
A colleague is conducting some in-school research and project development looking at the proposal that there may perhaps be a link between those children who struggle with the relative `freedom' of `golden time' and poor playground behaviour. Her work is primarily centred on early years. However, through discussion with her I have been encouraged to do some work with my 13-year-olds centred on identity and where the various `masks' that we wear come from. One of my students said that he felt he had been given a particular role by his peers in school (not a very positive one) and that that mask forever bound him. No one was allowing him to be someone else, to take off that mask and be a better version of himself.
We're a bit like that, us teachers. We play out the roles and wear the masks that politicians give us. Subversive. Critical. Disillusioned. But actually, beneath those masks, we're not really like that at all. If we were, why would we have gone into this profession in the first place?
At its most basic level, most of us went into this job because we wanted to make a difference. We wanted to instil in our students a love for learning and an appreciation of the possibilities of life. I firmly believe that having a College of Teaching run for and by us will make the journey for us all both more challenging and more rewarding.
Now, where do I sign up.?