When Jim Stynes was asked about his school days in the June 2008 issue of iteach, the newsletter of the Victorian Institute of Teaching in Australia, he was asked the following question:
“What contributions do teachers make to society?” Stynes replied,
“Many help shape the minds and souls of our greatest students and prepare them for the challenges ahead. Unfortunately, some still don’t recognise that kids have souls too that need nurturing, no matter how resistant or damaged they may be.”
Reading this made me think of an article I had read earlier by The Revd Dr Timothy Gaden (Dean of the Theological School & College Chaplain, Trinity College, University of Melbourne) after he gave a presentation at my school. I was unable to see his presentation but was told that it was a “hot topic that had generated a great deal of spirited discussion”. Tim spoke about “the education of the whole person” and how, as teachers, we need to be mindful of the powerful role we play in nurturing our students. As it is something that I am quite passionate about, I eagerly read Tim’s article passed onto me by our School Chaplain. I am very grateful to Tim for allowing me to share his article and write about it in this blog.
Tim began his article by describing the teachers that left a lasting impression on him.
“I hardly remember anything that they taught me, but I remember them. And you will have your own memories of teachers who taught you. It is unlikely that you, any more than I, remember them because of what they taught. I bet that you remember them for how they taught, for who they were as people.”
He then quoted American Psychologist, Karl Menninger, “What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches.” (How I love this quote!)
I had not even reached the end of the first page, yet what I was reading was having a huge impact. I was thinking to myself, “Yes, I bet it was a spirited discussion!”
He spoke of teachers going to class, himself included, with a “big, fat syringe” of content that needs to be taught in order to cover the curriculum so that students can achieve good exam results.
If you are unable to read his 4.25 pages of brilliance, I would encourage you to think about where you fit in. Are you a teacher who is a mentor, who nurtures the learner? Or are you under pressure to focus on the content? Maybe you are a balance between the two? At this year’s ICTEV Conference, Tasmanian Educator, Margaret Meijers, said in her keynote address, “Teachers are still clinging on trying to be the experts.”
So what does all of this have to do with ICT in Education? To me, ICT provides the perfect opportunity to empty that “big, fat syringe” of content in exciting and engaging ways for our students. However, there are some instances where the right tools will also provide us with the opportunity to “educate the whole person” and connect on a level that can often not be achieved via traditional means.
I have seen a perfect example of this with Andrew Douch, a Biology teacher who has an amazing rapport with his students with an incredible ability to connect with them. Of course, in Andrew’s case, being a warm and friendly person certainly helps! However, his use of emerging technologies has helped him to connect with his students in a very special way. You only need to look at Andrew’s facebook page and read the endless posts from past and present students to see that he is admired by many.
I think at times we completely underestimate the impact we have on our students. Our influence may not become apparent for many, many years to come. And what an incredible vocation it is, to have the opportunity to shape people’s lives.