What feelings does the word ‘teacher’ evoke in your pupils? Do they have warm memories of an inspirational figure who instilled a love of learning, or does a shiver run down their spine as they remember trying to recall the function of the mitochondria to avoid the wrath of your scary biology teacher?
Were you a Miss Trunchbull, or a Miss Honey? (If you haven’t read Matilda, you really must stop everything and do so immediately!)
Miss Trunchbull is a giant, terrifying, monster of a teacher, who hates children and is a rigid disciplinarian.
Miss Honey is a kind, quiet and caring teacher, who wants to help her pupils flourish and fall in love with school and learning.
The role of the teacher has evolved significantly since Roald Dahl wrote Matilda and it’s publication in 1988 though, with teachers no longer drumming the Three R’s into children but rather cramming their heads with information for them to recall in exam situations…actually, not much has really changed after all!
Teachers now are overworked, with unrealistic expectations placed upon their shoulders and a restrictive curriculum that doesn’t give them freedom to truly express and share their passion for their subjects.
The restraints placed upon teachers have pushed a whopping 84% of them report feeling demoralised at work, with 75% pointing to increased assessment as the root cause of their excessive workload. Over 60% of teachers claim that decision-makers demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of the true nature of teaching, an as a result a quarter of teachers who have qualified since 2011 have quit the profession, and nearly 50% of teachers plan on leaving the profession within the next five years.
Education should be a national priority but as a society we are ignoring the problems facing teachers. To reverse the trend of teachers leaving the profession, and to inspire young people to teach when they leave school, it is crucial to rethink the role of the teacher and create the conditions that would allow them to become a Miss Honey.
The current system ‘traps’ teachers, and has created a generation of Miss Trunchbull’s (through no fault of their own), by forcing teachers to adopt a persona to comply with strict rules to force children through a rigid system, with very little room for imagination and creativity. Instead, what is really needed are a new generation of Miss Honey’s to unlock the potential of young people and instil a genuine love of learning and school as they guide every young person who has taken charge of their own learning journey.
As technology becomes increasingly dominant in the classroom, and life, the value of knowledge-and-information-based learning is decreasing as young people now have increasing and near-constant access to the Internet. 75% of the world’s population is now online, and smartphones and tablets are commonplace. Instead, the role of the teacher should transition to a ‘learning guide’, whereby they assist children with skill development and application, rather than information-retention. By nurturing an attitude in children to applytheir knowledge and skills to practical situations, young people would be better prepared to enter the world of work and overcome the ever-widening skills gap.
Employers don’t want parrots who have just been trained to repeat what they have been told.
They want young people who can apply knowledge to real world contexts, solve problems and work effectively as a team. Technology has moved the world forwards, so it’s time to ditch the Trunchbull model and move to the Honey system of learning!
So what do we do? Rather than force-feed young people information to answer questions in exams, like Miss Trunchbull with Bruce Bogtrotter and the chocolate cake, teachers should be free to nurture interest, skill development and genuine curiosity.
We must give teachers more freedom, let the Miss Honey’s of the world blossom and encourage every child to flourish into a Matilda.