Monday, 2 December 2013

How much training does

a teacher actually need? It is a question under discussion here at present. There has been a recommendation that teachers should have a Masters degree before being let loose in the classroom.
I wonder about the wisdom of this.
The best teachers I ever had did not have Masters degrees, indeed some of them did not have any formal qualifications at all.
As I have said elsewhere on this blog my paternal grandmother was an excellent teacher. She had just three years of schooling herself. When her father was satisfied she could read she was taken out of school and set to work on the family farm. (Her younger sister had the luxury of five years at school. All seven boys did too.)
My grandmother continued her education by reading. She might not have done even that but she was an intelligent woman with an inquiring mind. If books were available she read them.
My grandmother taught me a great deal. She was an outstandingly good teacher.
My brother can also remember being taught by her. He also believes she was an excellent teacher. 
Our paternal grandfather taught us too. Again, when he left school he became apprenticed to a tailor. The money was not there for him to continue on to a more academic profession. He was also a good teacher.
What made them good? I think part of it was patience but they could also explain the "why" as well as the "how" - and explain it so that we understood. Nobody ever told them they had to do that. It just happened.
One of my English teachers had no formal training either. Her teaching career was, as she once told me, "accidental". But, she loved her subject. I think her enthusiasm for it was probably more important than a piece of paper saying she had been "taught how to teach". Teacher training may have helped her in the beginning but, after almost fifty years, she could have taught her fellow teachers a thing or two.
I have had other good teachers as well as some who were not so good - and a couple who were truly terrible. Not one of them, good or bad, had a degree in education - let alone a Masters degree. I muddled through under their tuition.
I might have done better of course if they had all been trained to a very high level - or would I? For the most part I genuinely doubt it. There are some people who can teach without training. They appear to have a natural ability to teach, to show and tell. There are others who, with training, will still not have that ability. I know highly intelligent people who will never be good teachers because they lack the imagination to understand how other people need to have something explained to them.
I spent three years in teacher training college but I did not learn much about teaching. It was not for want of trying. I think most of us thought we were there to learn how to teach and discovered that the best way to learn was to face a class.
And there is the real problem. Now it is difficult, even as a student, to get that face to face time. It is the lucky ones (who are not necessarily the best ones) who get jobs and even those jobs might not be permanent.
Mastering teaching takes time.


Anonymous said...

No amount of paper will ever make a good teacher.

The best teachers I have come across all had worked outside the education system ... out in the real world where their students will have to make their mark on the world.

A couple of good teachers had never worked outside the system, but they could only teach at a certain level ... our 2nd year high class teacher taught over our heads, but we would have loved to have had him two years later in our final year.

Sheeprustler said...

Sadly the practice of auto didactism is dying out, for a whole host of reasons. The Masters of Teaching is hopefully going to include extra practical teaching, which is one of the major things prospective teachers need, and also give them room to cover more areas - some years ago I met a young student on a teaching round who was so fascinated by my son that she had decided to do extra study on teaching the disabled - because it was barely covered in the 'normal' course even as an elective.