Once upon a time, not so many years ago really, when we thought of education we envisaged an authoritarian figure- perhaps in a robe and oddly-shaped hat- holding a stick of chalk and standing in front of a large group of seated (and preferably silent) children. The children would listen, then regurgitate the required information when called upon.
|A caricature from Vanity Fair|
There are some in our society who would like that model of education to remain fixed in stone. Some of them are teachers, some are parents, some are politicians and administrators.
If you're at the coalface, you know that education doesn't look like that any more, and nor should it if we want the human race to achieve to its potential. Gradually the realisation is filtering through that mass conformity doesn't produce brilliance, that the best education is not a twelve- or sixteen-year conveyor belt operated by authoritarian adults who force-feed the children from text books as they pass.
It's taken a long time to get to this point. History is littered with schoolroom failures like Thomas Edison and Isaac Singer, who achieved greatness only once they got out from under the thumb. (Go on, YOU try imagining life without the light bulb or the sewing machine.) And as technology explodes into new realms, creativity and individuality should be valued in the classroom as never before.
Teaching styles have to change to accommodate this realisation of truth.
I'm in an unusual position amongst my colleagues. I've had the experience of teaching all age groups- from birth to the end of high school. I've also coached adults. And so I can say to you, it doesn't matter how old the student is- nor does it matter that educational models are finally on the move. The essential truths of great teaching remain the same. There is a way to maintain control in a classroom without sacrificing individuality and creativity.
As a music teacher, I had to find these things out. My students had to be creative to do well in their course- and in setting them free, I stumbled upon these maxims which have served me well for over 30 years.
Here they are.