Teaching teachers

In March i had the chance to meet in person two great teachers, a Greek and a Finn. The Greek one is called Klimis Pirounakis, For him, being a teacher is more than a profession, it is more like a way of living, a stand, a life purpose. The other one is Pasi Sahlberg, the author of “Finnish Lessons” and an inspiration for many educators, who try to find ways to improve their schools and systems around the world. Both of them extremely kind, open to learn and share and humble.

I have heard many times that “Teachers love to teach but don’t appreciate so much being taught”, which if I think back at my school and University years, I can remember a few examples of my teachers that fit into that picture. There were as many though, that did not and that is extremely positive. For me, it is absolutely insane that in many countries around the globe, not enough attention has been put in making sure that the best people are “recruited” from across the country, trained and developed in order to be teachers. In the end of the day they spend almost as much times with our kids as their parents do.

Finland is one great case study; they recruit the best, with very good academic qualifications, as all of their teachers have Masters and perform research on a daily basis, they take care of their training and development and make sure that they are appreciated by the community, the parents and the society as a whole. Even though they do not have external performance evaluation systems, they have a strong accountability structure, which is usually internal, i.e. within the school and the teachers’ community in it.

One of the organizations that is working on creating a new kind of teachers in my view, is Teach for All. What is this? You may be an accountant, a librarian, a mechanical engineer or a software developer but you love kids and are passionate about education. You can apply then. After a thorough evaluation process, you get introduced to an intense training and development program that aims not only to teach the pedagogical theories and approaches, but also to  “build” the teacher as a complete and balanced individual, one with flaws of course, as every human being is, which however can be managed and worked upon. Then, the organization placed you at a school, especially one that faces significant challenges, either due to poor student performance or tough living conditions…or both. Results so far have been great and from friends that have passed through their program, they have nothing less to say than how much of a life-changing experience that was.

Of course, I am sure that there are great things taking place globally in that front and I think that the examples of great teachers out there are much more than the ones we think that exist. Why don’t showcase them more then?

So, I am very happy that there is a lot of innovation is put into educating more people, more efficiently, cheaper or for free, however maybe we need a School for Teachers. A School across borders, so that exchange of diverse ideas and thoughts can take place. A School where the teachers will find themselves again in the student’s role and will learn from the best. Imagine a School with teachers people like Klimis, Pasi, Sir Ken Robinson and Sugata Mitra and the discussions that would take place in the classroom. I think it would be a mind-blowing experience.

Until that is done though, let’s spend a bit of time to think the following questions:

1. Wouldn’t it be more efficient  if instead of trying to reach every single kid, we were able to influence the teacher that impacts tens of them?

2. Isn’t it counterproductive to put all this effort for pupils, without putting at least the equivalent in teaching teachers?

3. As we speak about the 21st century skills that our kids and youth need to develop, which are the necessary skills that their teachers and professors need to master in order to be able to perform in this challenging role? Are they currently able to? Have they been educated to do so?

My favorite quote by Klimis Pirounakis, which for me captures the whole essence of what education can and should be, shared by him during his recent TEDx talk was the following. It was said to him by one of his students at the women’s prison school. She said “My teacher, with you I am free”.

What do you think?

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