Photo by Jens Lelie
I’m hearing this constantly on Twitter following some powerful student Ignite speeches at the recent ISTE conference in San Antonio. The implication that great student learning only happens when teachers get out of the way is a false dichotomy. It implies that the students succeed despite us. I bet behind the scenes for all of those amazing students, there was a powerful and passionate teacher and supporter. Whether this is a school teacher, a parent, a friend, a brother, a cousin, whomever, everyone needs a supporter, coach, or teacher. A great teacher will impact learning. A great teacher doesn’t put a ceiling on a student’s potential. Students need great teachers. I am a massive advocate for learner-centred pedagogy and curriculum but there must be a balance. In the “The Child and the Curriculum”, John Dewey calls for a balance between the curriculum and the child. Neither should dominate. It is a democratic balance. Too skewed in the child direction “minimises the importance of the content as well as the role of the teacher.”
The role of the pedagogue
Pedagogy is defined as “leading children to a place where they can learn for themselves”. This leading can be done from any position. By their side, in front, behind or from afar. Great pedagogues use an arsenal of tools to lead students to a place where they can learn for themselves. Pedagogues provide a hand up. They throw learning curveballs. They meddle in the middle. They sage on the stage. They guide by the side. The key is knowing when to switch the roles. Knowing what toolset to pull from the pedagogical toolkit to assist students in learning for themselves.
Do great teachers get in the way? Yes…when they need to.
Do great teachers get out of the way? Yes…when they need to