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Helena Harper

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Does our education system delight both teacher and taught?
by Helena Harper   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Monday, July 06, 2009
Posted: Monday, July 06, 2009

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A look at our current education system after 20 years on its merry-go-round.

My overriding impression after having been a high school teacher in the U.K. for the past twenty years is that I've been on a merry-go-round. I've seen things being introduced, then abolished, then introduced again. I've seen more and more exams and tests being introduced and now some of those new exams and tests are being abolished -- and, perhaps, in the future they'll be reintroduced again; who knows? I've had to cut interesting discussions short in class because otherwise I wouldn't have completed the syllabus and been able to do past paper practice with students before the all-important exams. The students have been fixated on getting the highest grades they could because otherwise they wouldn't be able to get into university or do whatever else they wanted to do and would be deemed failures.

The paperwork for teachers has increased substantially because of the increase in the number of examinations and all kinds of other regulations that politicians have seen fit to introduce. Don't politicians just love to interfere with education even though they don't have a clue what teaching actually involves? Expressions of thanks from parents and pupils have grown fewer and fewer whilst complaints have grown ever greater.

The 'aha' moments I've seen in my pupils' faces and the strong bonds I've developed with my colleagues, most of whom are remarkable human beings -- intelligent, caring, very hardworking and often showing a much needed sense of humour -- have been rewarding. However, the system as it exists at the moment is far from ideal and the longer one is in it, the more aware one becomes of its failings. If teachers could get on with their jobs without interference from politicians; if we could get rid of restrictive syllabuses and fact-based exams that do nothing to promote independent, creative thought; and if we could stress cooperation rather than competition, then perhaps – as I say in my book It's a Teacher's Life...!, which is an amusing, often ironic and not uncritical collection of 'anecdotal' poems relating to the teaching profession - it will be possible to

'create another

indisputable reality

where education delights

both teacher and taught

and restrictions and syllabuses

are but a long, distant memory.'

My ideal would be an education system where teachers are much more facilitators than instructors. Pupils would be able to choose what they want to study and how they want to study, aided by their teachers, and because they would be learning what they want to learn, there wouldn't be any motivational or behavioural issues. Classes would be much smaller than they are today and prescriptive syllabuses and exams would be a thing of the past. Such a system would produce creative, independent thinking adults, which is what our world desperately needs if it is to find creative solutions to the problems that are facing us today.

Helena Harper

 

Web Site: Helena Harper


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Reviewed by Dallas D'Angelo-Gary
What you describe is very much the way Evergreen College is run here in Washington. It seems to work well for some.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Allen
My wife is a school teacher and I am a writer. She is up against the same political mumbo-jumbo. Her way of coping with a top down administrative system that seems to neglect the student entirely is to interject into her classes a sense of humor that somehow meshes with the curriculum. Don't ask me how she does it, but year after year parents ask that their children be assigned to her class. Light hearts learn while heavy hearts mourn. Maybe that's it.
Good article, but I do have to say this. You will never free yourself from the politics of it all, so you have to sidetrack it, sneak under it and teach your students to jump over it. It is that way with everything anymore, and it is getting worse.
Jeffrey B. Allen
www.jeffreyballen.com
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