Professional. Vocational. Academic.
Which of these would you apply to your role as a teacher, and to what extent? There has been much debate of this in the blogosphere recently. In respect of teaching, are these in any way interchangeable, or overlapping, or distinct? Plenty of this debate rests upon our views of the nature of knowledge of the theories and practices of teaching, and many comments have related to the teacher workforce and its access to, creation and communication of and control of its body of knowledge.
Don’t forget that much of this body of knowledge is gained through years of experience, not only from the objective and replicable research that more formal academic partners can offer. A College of Teaching needs to recognise and value this, and promote ways of perpetuating it, which is why the college must be composed of recent/current/seconded teachers from early Years to KS5, not of university academics or commercial CPD providers, advisers or politicians.
Real teaching also based on relationships, and to some extent a consideration of the social context in which we operate. Real teaching also based on individuals…yes, many of whom conform to broad patterns of behaviour and attitude, but who perform differently at different times of a day, week or term, and these differences sometimes demand a variety of responses from teachers, through intuition or spontaneity as much as through methodology and pedagogy – and these are some of the key ‘softer’ qualities of a good teacher that A College of Teaching also needs to consider and encourage.
Several industrial parallels are being made with regard to the teaching profession and its proposed professional body. We hear of institutes, charters, societies, ‘royal’ this and that. The College of Teaching needs to be seen in a similar way in terms of status, expectations of professionalism and responsibility for some aspects of career development, but in other ways the parallel doesn’t work… Teachers, and schools, have little control over their raw materials and are not always able to implement instant, system-wide changes.
And surely we don’t want teachers just to become ‘shop floor workers’ who follow the methods set out by a perceived-as-superior academic expert body who don’t work in schools every day. Parents want to know that that their child’s needs are being met by a caring professional who understands both the learning and personal attributes of their child’s personality. Teaching is also more than the delivery of subject expertise in the classroom, important though this is. Don’t forget the quite significant amount of assessment, and marking, the revision in preparation for exams, the form tutor role, report and reference writing, the reflection and self-evaluation. Many of these day to day tasks have yet to be discussed in aspects of the debate I’ve been reading, yet they are the reality of a teacher’s workload.
All the more reason why a College of Teaching needs to be discussing the day-to-day realities of school life with serving teachers – and so all the more reason why teachers should be engaging actively in these discussions from the outset.