The thing about teaching is that anyone can do it. People do it all the time. This is not to say that anyone should be able to do it in schools; for that you need specialised training. But if you came across a mum teaching her child to count, as they played together in the park, you wouldn’t say, “hey, don’t do that, you’re not qualified.” The same is not true of being a doctor, or a pilot, or a rocket scientist. We want parents to teach their children stuff, but we don’t want parents to stitch a wound, or fly a plane, or build a rocket. The other thing about teaching is that it works best when it happens within a relationship – teaching is not just about you on your own, it is about you and your relationship with the people you are teaching. You can ‘teach’ all you want, but for magic to happen, the other person has to want to learn as well. Teachers get to laugh, and cry, and go on trips with their children. The same cannot be said for doctors, or pilots, or rocket scientists.
One of the main things you need in teaching is confidence, both in the subject you are teaching, and also in how you are going to teach it to the specific people in front of you. When you don’t have confidence, the whole thing tends to fall apart. This is why I struggle a bit with the idea of using research to find evidence to tell people the ‘right way’ to teach. Research works best when people are uncertain about the answers they are going to get, not when they think they know exactly what the answer will be. Teaching works best when people are sure about how they are going to do it, not when they are in doubt. Teachers need to have confidence in their own professional judgement and in their ability to reflect, evaluate and adapt to their own context. While the ‘how to’ is widely debated at the moment, there is something that attempts to scientize teaching will never get past. Yes, teaching is about how, but it is also about who. It is you, in that moment, with those kids.