Saturday, January 21, 2006

Talking Shop & Pathways to Knowledge

This blog is quite free form and I am happy with it's change in direction from my whiny anxieties about starting work to more of an exploration of what it means to be a teacher and questioning who I will be, or become, as a teacher. Very soon it should metamorphose into it's originally anticipated form of me talking about teaching (which will very likely include the above whines and worries too – sorry). Think of the earlier stuff as more the grub before the butterfly...

Just before Xmas I was told that teachers can get really boring to be around because all they think about is their students. As they become overworked and focused on their job, they lose touch with the outside world making them very dull dinner companions. It could be worse though, the company of two teachers inevitably ends up with both talking shop. I replied that it's common of all professions to talk shop to some extent and was told 'No. Teachers are different'.

Perhaps they are. Last night I ended up talking shop with a woman I met briefly about a year ago. It seems that now I am becoming a teacher, I bump into them everywhere (that's even how I ended up with my teaching job) and, of course, when you do, you chat. So what is different about teachers? I think it is the isolating nature of teaching and lack of opportunity to discuss work within work. Sure it is great to be relatively autonomous how do you process your days work? With other responsibilities, yard duties and students interrupting breaks when do you have time to evaluate your work with someone else? Is there an element of hesitation involved with exposing what may be perceived as weaknesses within your own school environment? I'd like to live in my happy land of naïvety a little longer and think it's the former, rather than think teachers would not help each other to learn and grow in their profession. You can slag off management and colleagues with like minded co-workers at the pub after school but venting is not really the same and evaluating and exchanging ideas. Blogging is a great modern way of overcoming this, with the opportunity to explore your own teaching as a blogger (and safely vent...) and get ideas and reassurance from other bloggers in similar situations. Will blogging prevent the onset of boring?

The shop talk last night covered what it means be an educator, disability, and how pathways of knowledge are valued (Which pretty much says – yes, you are boring already). She teaches disability in a TAFE and confirmed one of my biggest worries about becoming a teacher – attachment to students. I think this is going to be a really hard aspect of teaching for me to deal with and establish some professional detachment. One of the reasons I never wanted to teach primary kids was because I like them too much, but found when I was on rounds that I care as much about teenagers – they just aren't as cute! I was told last year that adult learners capture your affection just as much. Last night confirmed it. She teaches adults who are often very much older than her and is still concerned for them as much as she would be for a younger student. All students are needing something from you and that must be taken into account whether they are 5 or 50.

I told her that I was concerned that I didn't really understand what disability as a construct really means to my students. It affects every part of their lives and many of their meanings in learning will be constructed though this filter. I'm probably thinking too far ahead, but once I get the hang of the basics of this job I am going to need to do some specialist study - assuming I like this area of education. If I head back to uni, I would be doing a post grad certificate in special ed that would lead straight into a diploma or further to a Masters. This would be giving me an understanding of educating students with special needs and inclusive education but focuses my knowledge into how to educate rather than giving me a broader understanding of the concept of disability. A couple of people I have met recently have advised me to do a certificate IV in disability at a TAFE to get a broader understanding. I find it odd though, that this would be considered a strange pathway for me to take. I don't understand why university education is valued so much above more practical pathways in learning. It's all good, right? Why be snobs about it? It will be interesting to work out what seems most valuable and convenient in a year or so...

TAFE: Technical And Further Education

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