Word Teacher’s Day 2020: recognising education’s heart

Image Credit: Hush Naidoo

Today is World Teacher’s Day 2020. A perfect opportunity to pay homage to the quiet, introspective, absorbed patience of the teaching profession (Rilke, 1958). People who have, through their competence, commitment and compassion, surmounted all manner of challenges throughout the pandemic. Professionals with the power to transform individuals and society at large (de Guzman et al., 2008), shaping, influencing, and supporting abilities to transition into new 21st norms.

Educators across the world have prioritised needs and found creative ways to make covid-context education work. They have pulled upon their expertise and experience, and engaged in fast learning beyond their traditional scope of practice. In addition to the mechanics of digitising content and pivoting their pedagogy, an important challenge has been regaining or freshly stimulating connections in new contexts, be that online instead of face-to-face, or in reconfigured social distanced classrooms.

2020 has been a tremendously stressful and innovative period, but let’s not glaze over severe government-led budget cuts and institutional restructuring which preceded COVID-19. The sector has also had its fair share of battle with automation’s continued non-linear creep [link], with several commentators going as far to cry that that teaching is dead. Yet, the current crisis proves, country by country, teaching will never be fully robotised or digitised! That indeed, schools, college and universities are as much social and societal institutions, as learner centric. Humans incite and feed curiosity. And that while technology firms have taken opportunity from the change, and are now more comfortably positioned with a growing education portfolio, it is live beings who represent the beating heart of education. Teaching is, after all, driven by pathic sensibilities: thoughtfulness, tact and sensitivity (Van Manen, 2015), and has undergirded the profession’s resilience, adaptability and agility.

To this end, I quote Parker, J. Palmer, introduced to me by my very own inspirator fellow educator Dr Colin Jones, of the University of Southern Queensland. 

Methods vary widely but the connections made by good teachers are held not in their methods but in their hearts, the place where intellect, emotion and spirit and will converge in the human self...

abridged Parker J. Palmer, 1997 The Courage to Teach

So, today, I acknowledge and respect the quiet patience and heart of the teachers who undertake depthful human work. And I suggest if there is one key ‘education context’ lesson to learn from this year, it is that investing in teachers, and their ever-evolving skillset and mindset, is crucial to societal success.

Even placing aside the fact they seed all other professional roles key to our future, teachers play a significant role in the overall well-being of children and learners. “Great teachers make their students feel safe and loved.. model patience, and help students reach their full potential (Ray, 2017).

I do believe, education has never mattered more. It’s high time the powers that be recognise this, and budgets reflect accordingly.

References

Guzman, A.B.d., Torres, R.K.C., Uy, M.M., Tancioco, J.B.F., Siy, E.Y. & Hernadez, J.R, (2008) ‘From teaching from the heart to teaching with a heart: Segmenting filipino college students’ views of their teachers’ caring behavior and their orientations as cared-for individuals’, Asia Pacific Educ. Rev. 9, pp. 487–502.

Palmer, P.J. (1997) ‘The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life,’, San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.

Ray, B. (2017) ‘6 Traits of Life-Changing Teachers’, Edutopia, 9th May 2017 [online]. Available: https://www.edutopia.org/article/6-traits-life-changing-teachers-betty-ray

Rilke, R.M. (1958) ‘Letters to a young poet’ 2nd ed., (M. D. Herter Norton, Trans.) New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Van Manen, M.A. (2015) ‘Pedagogical tact’, Oxford: Routledge.


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