What Corrupts Quality Teaching?
August 05 2012 by John Stewart, Headmaster
A good school is one where people volunteer for service to others – for children, so the benefit of such commitment is to touch future generations with trust for a long-term vision. It is the undying belief of engaging unrealised personal potential. To care for others and to give graciously to an institution for the betterment of learners, this is the true meaning of teaching and self-sacrifice.
With so much focus on what makes a ‘quality’ teacher, it seems appropriate we consider what corrupts the art of teaching.
I list my Ten Corruptions of Teaching. This is not a definitive list, and opens debate. This list’s purpose is to urge us to contemplate.
The Ten Corruptions of Teaching
The first corruption – The Power from Knowing
Information brings power. A position has information, which it is easy to hold and treasure – and lock up from others. To be enlightened in teaching is to offer generously your knowledge, this is wisdom.
The second corruption - Possessiveness
Possessiveness of a domain we control – called in education a ‘class’. A brilliant teacher of learners is not a brilliant teacher if they do not allow an open door to swing, and they do not consider their teaching to be in par with a colleague’s. If you become possessive of roles, you become political, you seek power-blocs and waste energy.
The third corruption – Closed-Mindedness
Closed-mindedness. As teachers, we expect all children to be open to what we lead and guide. Strangely, as soon as teachers are asked to follow – the common thread is disregard and rebellion. As teachers (and people asked to change) we lock horns and think of Our world – not the future of potential locked in ‘Their’ world.
The fourth corruption - Loathing
It is all too easy to find disagreement, to find exceptions, to find individuals with whom we do not connect. As we govern our classes let us never forget we govern only children – only individuals – never bands of performance or behaviour.
The fifth corruption – Lazy Distortions
It is all too easy to give-up, believing – and justifying, that teaching and learning is an example of osmosis. It isn’t. Laziness leads to teaching a class rather than a pupil. Laziness leads to marking for completion rather than feedback to improve – never store papers and think holidays are periods to ‘catch-up’. You will be lost.
The sixth corruption – Disorganisation
Disorganisation. The disorganised teacher believes that their talent allows a freedom from consideration. Teaching can never lead learning without careful consideration of the process, the stages of proximal reinforcement. Disorganisation never plots a course – and no one disorganised and unplanned has ever succeeded in exploration.
The seventh corruption – Personality
Personality. To be a great teacher you have to be born with a natural skill and a compassionate love of the individual. If you lack this element, you may have knowledge, you may have skill but you are not a great teacher. A teacher is a mentor who can look into the soul of every individual and see strength.
The eighth corruption – Criticism to Ridicule
To criticise to ridicule is an expression of one’s own inadequacies and narrowness. Criticism is negative and can undermine growth – especially if the critic is a role-model. Criticism is founded on jealousy or threat. It manifests itself in the worst possible condition – humiliation and bullying. Critical thought is vital to learning but criticism to undermine is cancerous.
The ninth corruption - Stagnation
Stagnation. The loss of the urge to learn debilitates the teacher more than the student. To become stagnant and retain a position as teacher is selfish, demoralising and wrong. There can be no excuse for anyone to retain a role of educator when they no longer yearn to learn, strive to improve. Apathy is pathetic.
The tenth corruption – Financial Security
What may hang us on the cross is the professional aspect of teaching – teaching as a job. It is the fear of finances, the need to collect the pay cheque which lead us to believe that a point of view is selfishly more important than a school’s mission. The realisation we need to sustain a job for financial security when we know we are under-performing leads to a corruption of the team and self.
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About Mr John Stewart
For ten years, Mr Stewart taught in the United Kingdom at famous schools, such as Hill House International School in Knightsbridge, London; and St John's College School, Cambridge... Read more
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