"An educational system isn’t worth a great deal if it teaches young people how to make a living but doesn’t teach them how to make a life."
What is a good teacher? A great teacher? An average teacher? A terrible teacher? Any EduTwitter chat where those questions are asked will see a series of one-liner well-meaning platitudes reeled off. Various teacher accreditation systems have sought to codify what good practice is and judge teachers based on those standards, and everyone you meet will be able to tell you a story about what a good/great/average/terrible teacher is based on their own experience and a teacher their child had, or even, that they had themselves as a student.
I was born in 1983 and my generation (though which generation I am in varies wildly) is the one that has crossed over the most. My parents' and grandparents' generations had watched as life changed around them with various wars, political crises, financial ups and downs impacting their lives. Technology, however, though changing, was doing so relatively slowly. I have recollections of my mother doing a night course at the local Tech sometime around 1986 when we lived, briefly, in Queensland. Technology, or more specifically, computing technology, was not a mainstay of life for previous generations.
I grew up learning how to use an Apple IIe on my Pop's lap, with him showing me how to use some of the basic functions, as well as play games like The Ancient Art of War and Prince of Persia. My first recollection of seeing a computer in the classroom was during 1994, when my Year Five teacher, Mr Davies, had a DOS computer running that classic game, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego which Mr Davies used as a reward for good behaviour, as well as time on the game being awarded when it was a students birthday. We also had Encarta Encyclopaedia on the library computers. I remember using the internet for the first time at (high) school, logging in via Netscape Navigator and using Ask Jeeves to ask some sort of question.
I remember being excited when I was able to buy, on special, a 1Gb thumb drive for the then cheap price of $55 and a host of other technical milestones since. The rate of change, especially in regards to technology, has been increasing and so we are now seeing more and more instances of Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR respectively) in the classroom as technology becomes cheaper to build, the content cheaper to make and easier to access, and teachers more open to trying.
That is just the change we have seen in technology.
How mobile phones have changed. Mobile phone evolution, respectively, from left to right: Motorola 8900X-2, Nokia 2146 orange 5.1, Nokia 3210, Nokia 3510, Nokia 6210, Ericsson T39, HTC Typhoon, iPhone 3G, Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung Galaxy S4 mini, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6 Plus. Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mobile_Phone_Evolution_1992_-_2014.jpg on 13 January 2018
There have also been significant changes in policy surrounding education with The Education Portfolio going from being a relative backwater to being the hot-seat portfolio. I remember many days of strikes by teachers with the work the Teacher Federations did here in Australia through the 1990s, whereas I hear many teachers, particularly long-serving teachers, talk about how toothless the Federation has become and many graduate teachers not joining (for the record, I was a member and am not now only because I am not in a school-based role).
Particularly in the last decade, it feels like we have been inundated with change. The MySchools website, the focus on NAPLAN and PISA, arguments about the place of computers and digital technology in the school with the Digital Education Revolution, the growing administrative tasks that teachers are required to do, the funding battles, the growth of coding, STE(A)M, robotics, and a host of other pedagogical strategies combined with the increase in youth mental health issues and suicide rates, with Dolly Everett being the latest tragic victim.
It feels like, and this is just my personal opinion, that things are coming to a head. A conversation with an experienced teacher will yield at some point a discussion about the changes they have witnessed (some interesting article on this exact topic can be found here, here, here, and here).
There have been so many changes, back flips, side steps, shock announcements, useless polices, poorly thought out programs etc that it feels like we are on the way to a proverbial re-balancing of the scales, I could, and quite possibly, am seeing something that is not there, but it feels incredibly like we are heading for a monumental shift in education. I do not know what it is, but I also do not see how it is feasible for education and our society in general to continue on our current pathway; rising social issues around mental health, gender equality, Indigenous issues (such as education, health etc.), an ageing population, housing, childcare, education, teacher abuse (including murders), and a Government system that seems unable to think beyond the next soundbite, let alone the next election cycle, and issues.
Something [monumental] this way comes. Meanwhile, teachers across the country continue to teach, doing the best they can with the resources they have.
What will be the straw that breaks the camel's back? What will be the issue that causes you as an individual and us as a profession to say no more? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.