Thursday, August 26, 2004

Unfinished review : The Learning Game

Thought I'd try and review the book as I was reading it to see if I could capture any thoughts and feelings. My thoughts are in the light of teachers I knew in the past. As you got older you made the unpleasant discovery that if they lost you while lecturing that was the beginning of the end. You were history. So even if a lecturer or his subject bores you to tears, it bodes well if you hang on to their every word. Feigning understanding isn't much use as they'd throw a googly of a question and catch you out when least expecting it. Sensitivity to any rivalry or romance between the teachers would further keep you out of trouble. As you can probably tell I got quite detached about what teaching was all about. I felt they didn't really understand "real" life and lived in an ivory tower. Let's see if Jonathan Smith's book can change my view.

Jonathan Smith teaches young children. That's clear from the start. He claims that people tend to look on teachers as people not quite fully grown up. This I find is very true of teachers in junior education. Which is a good thing. It's only later that the teachers get egoistical and aloof. Which is also a good thing, generally. But on rare occasions you do discover the teacher that has the ability to connect to the playful and curious inner child and bear fruit.

Rule no 1: Learn never to apologise for being a teacher. The British teachers are habitual apologists. Some teachers go even further and are in denial, aware of "the social disabilities of the trade." Jonathan Smith writes that teachers need to be like doctors who never apologise even if they are about to finish you off. Those who have second careers in writing or in music still find themselves apologising. The apologising only stops if they are lucky enough to have a book or piece of music shown on TV.

Rule no 2: As a parent and teacher he advises that beyond loving them, the best that can be done for them is to "make them interested, interested in things in the hope that it will make them interesting." To me that is the most difficult thing about being a parent or teacher. "Nothing beats a seriously good and demanding chat with your pupils or child , a really serious exchange of views even if it descends into a row or argument." I ask you, have teachers and parents lost sight of that ? Can they not risk being humane over being PC ?


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