The first assignment in Ruth Wylie’s graduate level learning theory course is: “What is your personal theory of teaching?” The last assignment is the same question. Students have the option to reflect upon their initial response to the question or they can abandon their first response and answer from a different perceptive.
My understanding the U.S. educational system continues to evolve during my travels. I have heard too many ‘burn-out’ stories from teachers to discount them as individual gripes. Our attainment levels have dropped compared with other countries. There is great frustration and little satisfaction. What are we doing wrong?
“We don’t have the answer here in the United States, but if we look internationally, we can see places where teaching, and education, work better. Teachers here are told their job is important. Then they are treated poorly in terms of salary; curriculum is dictated; resources are scarce. Parents and teachers used to be united, now they are at odds with each other.” Ruth taught in Japan for few years where she experienced an environment of well-paid teachers who had more prep time and more co-teaching opportunities. “All of these helped reinforce the concept that teaching is important with the reality of how teachers are supported in their work and by society.
“People enter teaching with altruistic goals, but ultimately, teaching is exhausting. Part of the problem is the idea that good students are necessarily good teachers. I don’t go the clinic and think I can be a doctor. What would education be like if we trained, paid, and respected teachers the way we do doctors? What if it were as difficult to get into education as it is to get into medical school?”
I’ve encountered many people who little value education, and knowledge, in our country. I’ve learned that when people talk of elites, they are referring to well-educated people, not rich people. We love rich people but are wary of well-educated people. Our habit of blurring belief and fat reinforces this. So many of us treat beliefs as facts.
“We can be isolated in how we get information. I am appalled by some of the items that show up on my Facebook feed, but I am committed to having Facebook friends with a wide range of viewpoints. In my Google news feed, nothing challenges me. Google knows what web sites I visit and they just give me more of the same.”
How will we live tomorrow?
“I am going to refrain from the ‘I think’. I am going to say ‘I hope.’ I hope we are more collaborative and more cooperative. I am reminded of some friends who are building a cooperative house. It includes twenty private sleeping spaces, but living and cooking and play are in common. It is a difficult thing to create, but worthwhile. We have to learn that striving to be independent is not the same as going it alone. We are actually more independent by working together.”