I love these words: learning, experience, complexity, uncertainty, experimentation, creativity, communication, language, children, family, love, community, connections, commonsense, intuition, emotion, engaged, sideways.
These words are popular right now: certainty, knowledge, rigour, measure, progress, evidence, data, outstanding, standards, efficient.
We are all standing on the shoulders of giants. Make no mistake about that. Children should be taught stuff: this is how to do it, this approach works best, this way is easiest, this is what people in the past wrote, and thought and did. Learn from them. Build on their legacy. I have absolutely no problem with that. That’s what I do as a writer: try to help other people build on what has come before, on what is already known.
But we have to get off the giants’ shoulders at some point and forge our own paths, because otherwise, what’s the point? This is where creativity matters. And it’s not about ‘the arts’, it’s about everything.
The only way to be creative is to give something a go, to get it wrong (or perhaps slightly less right), and then to try again. That’s what I do, every time I write. Edit, edit, edit, against a backdrop of understanding, knowledge, research and experience. But it cannot be just a collection of words on a page that a bunch of monkeys could easily replicate. I have to find my own voice. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Learning essentially means creativity, because when we learn we are always creating something new for ourselves. This might be new memories (a.k.a. knowledge), new physical, emotional or intellectual attributes (a.k.a. skills), or new ideas (a.k.a. innovations, stories, art, all that great stuff). We are able to build these things because of those who went before us. But they can’t do it for us. We have to do it for ourselves.
If we really want to move forwards with our learning, we have to be willing to make mistakes and then reflect on why they happened and how we could improve next time around. If I’m certain about the best way to do something, there is no need for me to try anything new. Essentially I’m saying: ‘I can stop creating now, the giants got it right’. We have to value experience and innovation as well, otherwise what’s the point?
Learning to be a teacher is about acquiring knowledge, craft, science, an overall understanding of how the process of learning actually works. But it is also about intuitive, emotional connections, about reflection, and about creating our own ‘teacher’ for ourselves. This has to include our own set of beliefs, not ones which are thrust upon us. Although I disagree with some of the blogs I read, I admire all the writers for their self belief and eloquence.
It’s not possible to measure everything against a set of criteria that someone else has specified, and to be completely certain about what is right. To do so means we shut off the possibility of progress. There are some certainties, and evidence has its place, but in the end there is no short cut, no ‘blueprint’ for the perfect teacher. The process has to start and end with a human being, making their very own mistakes.