I am attending the ICT in Education Conference at St John’s. What an amazing opportunity to get together with like-minded professionals and find out about what other people are doing! How I wish this was available to all teachers. But sadly it is not.
I worked in the state system for some seventeen years before I came to work at Roedean. Since starting at Roedean four years ago, I have been on three Conferences, including the BETT Show in London in 2010. In my previous seventeen years I did not have the opportunity to go to a single conference. We were subjected to Department of Education workshops from time to time, excruciating affairs in which an official would read from the same document you had been handed at the door. No debate, no discussion, no sense of grappling with the great issues in education, just mind-numbing boredom as the voice at the front droned on, painstakingly going through a document you’d finsihed reading while waiting for the workshop to begin!
The Conference at St John’s has yet to begin in earnest, but already there is a buzz created by the twitter stream and warm coffee and croissants at registration – much needed in this cold weather. Don’t really remember ever getting even a biscuit at Department Workshops! I attended this Conference two years ago, in Durban, and found it very useful. Although you can keep in touch with new developments over the Internet, it is still very useful to be able to attend a Conference in person, and speak to other people, and get their take on things.
And this brings me to my point. I have a sense that professionalism in education has been much under attack these last few decades, mainly because of the growing power of publishers, but also because of a political need to standardise education. I am no fan of the “this is week three so it must be quadratic equations” approach or of teachers being handed lesson plans at the door. Not just because it destroys our professionalism, but also because education isn’t like that! The lesson plan that goes perfectly to plan, has missed the point. Teachers need to be opportunists, we need to be able to think on our feet, tailor-make our own materials for our own classes and the individuals who sit in front of us! Just because it is week three does not mean that every child is ready to face quadratic equations, and often a teacher needs to be able to ditch her lesson plan, and go back to where that class needs to be at that time, thinking on her feet, drawing on her professionalism and experience!
Conferences are just one small signal that professionalism is valued, and to tell you the truth it’s all teachers really have. We are generally looked down upon by a world which values commercialism above all else, and although things are changing slightly, as the world wakes up to the great changes occurring and the importance of education, generally speaking we are thought of as glorified child-minders! Most of us are remunerated as such!
So, here, I am, at the ICT Conference, determined to learn as much as I can, and determined to strike a blow for Professionalism in Education!