As a child I liked many of my teachers. There were those that were funny, autocratic, confused, empathetic etc. I remember them primarily for the funny stories that happened in their classrooms, and whether or not we thought they were cool.
As I think back on them I realize that every one of them was focussed on only one thing: helping me and my classmates to pass our exams.
Good academic results were the priority, and a teacher was judged to be a good one if his or her students got good grades.
There were few discussions about what our education was for. It was just accepted that you had to get your passing grades in order to get a good job, and or to get into University so that you could get an even better job.
There was no discussion about what the working world was like, about the different paths our lives could take, or about what an education was.
My teachers felt that their ultimate responsibility was …
to help us pass exams
… because once we were doing that our lives would take care of themselves—or so it was assumed.
So my classmates and I felt that the purpose of learning was to pass exams and get our credentials.
As a result …
Our teachers failed us
.. because they implicitly led us to believe that getting a degree somehow transformed us into a guaranteed success, young men and women who would get big jobs, with big titles and big salaries.
And that’s what I expected.
It never occurred to me that the real focus of my education was to actually acquire the capacity to do something, to create something, to provide some service that other people would value.
I had come to believe that the purpose of my degree was the certificate, the degree, having the credentials. I was taught to pursue the piece of paper “degree” that would tell the world I had an education.
This worked a long time ago when change came slowly but not in a world where the only real capacities that matter are the capacities to anticipate, adapt (to) and cause change.
Ironically I think this makes the job of a teacher easier, not harder because it boils down to a curriculum designed to achieve one thing, that if done early enough will give children a better chance at living a great life.
What is this one thing that then becomes the ultimate responsibility of any teacher?
A teacher’s ultimate responsibility is to instill a love of learning
… a love of
Kids need to learn for themselves
- why to learn
- how to learn
- what to learn
A teacher’s job is to make sure that they experience and never lose their natural love of learning. That’s it.
The more our teachers are able to give their young students a lean forward attitude to continual learning, the more they will be able to invent, create and adapt to rapid change and the enormous challenges they will face in the 21st century.
Count yourself as extremely lucky if your child has such teachers. If not, it’s entirely up to you.