People & Ideas

Jul 14, 2014

Want to improve teaching? Ask a teacher

The media has been full of complaints about poor-quality teachers. But does the answer really lie in choosing teachers with better academic marks? Teacher Chris Fotinopoulos is not convinced.

Whenever I watch my six-year-old nephew write, read, make things or play games, I ask myself how long before his enthusiasm for learning is drummed out of him.

And whenever he asks peculiar questions or presents hilarious takes on the world, I again ask how long before he clams up, as many students seem to do in their early teens — usually out of fear of saying or doing the wrong thing.

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17 thoughts on “Want to improve teaching? Ask a teacher

  1. klewso

    “It’s all teachers fault”?

  2. Matt Hardin

    As a newly graduated teacher in science. Would add that the year 8-10 science curriculum is high on definitions and facts and low on engaging themes. It seems to suffer from the fact that the writers of the curriculum want to train professionals in their area and not equip students to understand the world.

  3. pinkocommierat

    The problem is the terms of employment. Many talented teachers are so demoralised they leave the profession… you would, too, when it’s usually politicians, bureaucrats, entrepreneurs and opinion columnists telling you they have all the answers (no offence intended).

  4. Robert Jameson

    I do not know if I should say I am a former teacher – I did teach for one year and gave it up as a bad joke. There is no discipline and the teacher is treated like $hit by the kids and like $hit by the education system. That is why the profession does not attract quality applicants.
    The education system has been deliberately dumbed down. Control deliberately taken away from the teachers. I guess there were too many kids in the 1970s from working class suburbs taking up prestige places at Univ’s.
    Making learning ‘fun’ and ‘joyful’ is not the answer. Streaming is! The current system works on the basis of one size fits all. That can never work. Business wants workers who can ‘take instructions’ – not kids who know nothing and want to keep asking WHY.

  5. Delerious

    Kind of a romantic view. Those kids who want to learn don’t ever lose their desire to but sadly puberty is a time of “NO”. Basically you could say what a beautiful day it was and their automatic response is “NO” or “whatever”. I appreciate that some teachers are better then others etc but I didn’t mind tests when I was at school and I didn’t mind learning and I didn’t mind being there, actually loved it but I was odd. Up until year 10 I was surrounded by NO but once they had left and I was in Yr 11 that all stopped. Sadly, thanks to John Howard, kids, who want to learn don’t have that freedom when they hit yr 11. No matter who, or what, teacher they have.

  6. Richard Smith

    So teaching is beyond the reach of rational processes and entirely in the hands of ‘creative’ individuals? How then do you account for the now voluminous research evidence that tells us that teachers ‘matter’ and that meany of them don’t know how to do it?

  7. laughlovenjoy

    I have much respect for teachers with passion and interest and a keenness to share their knowledge with hormone-addled teenagers. Being at the coal face, Chris of course knows of what he speaks – but I do wonder if it was ever thus?

  8. John Attwood

    After 30+ years in the classroom, I agree with Chris to the extent that there is an overemphasis on testing, with NAPLAN at Years 3, 5, 7 and 9, entrance tests for Year 6 into selective schools, Year 10 SC exams, and the big cahuna – the HSC. That a student’s entire future could depend on that single event is undeniably false, but the perception is that it does!
    Why do people continue to believe that the HSC is a “single chance” for students? There are endless possibilities after HSC.
    Why do people (parents in particular) seem to believe that a University education is more important than a trade? I know sparkies who I treasure far more than my GP.

  9. Gavin Moodie

    Pupils’ appetite for knowledge was suppressed long before the ‘relentless regime of testing’ was mandated in Australian secondary education. It is also observed in many other countries; Foucault would argue that it is part of the nature and purpose of schooling.

  10. old greybeard

    I will tell you that governments definitely do not understand the problems. They would rather we walk in Grey Moderand. I have taught for over 20 years and came to the game in my late 30s. I have two kids who were great at science. One works in Earth Sciences, but the other gave it up because of a teacher clash, However, my favourite school subject, Chemistry has become a boring nonsense becasue we refuse to exclude unsafe students from the lab. Instead, we dumb down and make a wonderful subject boring due to rubbish pracs. God forbid, we may make a few slightly risky materials. We may not use in a lab what the kids paint themselves with out of class. Remove the wonder, lose the plot. I often discussed this dumbing down with my far distant uncle who proclaimed curses upon such things. He was a pretty good chemist, the only Australian Nobel Laureate in the field. MAybe he had something?

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