There is an article in this morning's paper which is talking about the number of hours spent at school and the "ranking" of our schools in the international education system. We don't do disastrously but we don't do particularly well either.
School is where children "go to work" - or so we try and tell ourselves. I wonder though how true that really is. In reality I think children expect school to be "fun". They expect to be entertained.
During the Covid19 "lock down" periods I was made even more aware of this. I know several children and teens for whom not going to school was a relief. It was not because they don't like going to school. They do like going to school. It was not because they were trying to get out of doing any work. It was because they could, as one of them put it, "just get on and do it".
I knew just what he meant. There seems to be a lot of time wasted at school. It's inevitable. You change lessons? You need to do this even if you are not ready to let go of the subject matter just then. You understand the point the teacher is making? You want to move on but the teacher is reinforcing the point or making it again because someone else does not understand. The subject matter is something you have studied before and you don't want to do it again? Too bad.
A friend of mine did not go to school until she was thirteen. Until then she was "home-schooled" - not by choice but necessity. She was fortunate enough to have a number of well qualified adults taking an interest in her education. They also taught her to work in a very disciplined way. She was so far ahead of her peer group she could have gone to university but knew she was much too young to do so successfully. Her greatest concern at school was how much time was wasted. It frustrated her. "I could do more in two hours of prep than they did all day" she once complained to me.
There was always tension between her and her teachers too. "I had to learn not to ask questions in class," she told me, "There was no time for the sort of thing I wanted to know."
And that is surely where the best teaching comes in. It is where the teacher can handle students like A.... and also the students who are there simply because they must be there and, whatever the teacher tries, refuse to be motivated.
We used to have something called "demonstration schools" here. They were ordinary "infant" and "primary" schools where teachers who were considered to be exceptional in one way or another had student teachers placed in their classrooms. As students we were expected to learn by observing them. The Senior Cat taught in one for two years before being promoted as the head of a small school of his own. We sometimes talked about what happened in those schools and whether they had anything to offer. As the child of two teachers, both of whom ended up as heads of very big and very difficult schools, I know I found out more from them.
I also had an unlikely example. My paternal grandmother had three years of schooling. She should have had more but her father did not approve of education for girls. He wanted her working on their farm. Despite that Grandma was one of the best teachers I have ever come across. She knew how much information to give me, how to tell me what I needed to know, when to make me work it out for myself. I remember sitting at her kitchen table with a book when I can only have been three. Without knowing anything about phonics she was asking me to "sound out the word". The quality of her teaching exceeded that of many of the trained teachers I have come across since.
I don't know if there are "natural born teachers" but I think there might be - and we need to find them.