So how is my ‘becoming literate’ journey coming along? I am aware that it is six months since I wrote my first blog post but this doesn’t indicate a stagnant journey! There is so much I could say – about my work and my evolving approach(es) to teaching secondary students and various facts I read that seem to be of cultural significance – such as more people applied to be on Love Island than applied to Oxford or Cambridge… But I will begin with an update on some reading I have been doing from a book I bought in 1989 when I was training to be a teacher at the University of Wolverhampton. The book is called ‘Children’s Minds’ by Margaret Donaldson and we were strongly advised to buy it – which I did. I think like most books on the reading list, it received a skimmed reading approach. Just enough reading to inform me that she was challenging some of Piaget’s theories, but as I hadn’t a strong grasp on those either, a challenge to them did not make a mark. But the book remained on my bookshelf as evidence that I was a teacher trained in theory as well as practice and as a reminder to me that one day I should try reading it again. So, thirty years later I am doing just that and what gems I am finding!
First of all what about this as our starter for 10:
‘some of the skills which we value most highly in our educational system are thoroughly alien to the spontaneous modes of functioning of the human mind’ (p. 15)
So, why do we persist with things that are alien? Are we scared of spontaneity? And to be sure – spontaneity isn’t about letting the students do what they want. She talks about teachers guiding the learning within a ‘structure environment’ (p. 120) that enables students to become ‘competent, self-determining, responsible beings’. For her, a heavy handed control is really an anticipation of a rejection of learning, whereas an unobtrusive control seeks to render itself unnecessary. Instead she calls for a ‘light touch’ (note, not an ‘easy touch’) and herein lies the skill and artistry of teaching – a profession that I began 30 years ago but am only now truly seeking to discover what a ‘light touch’ looks like in a classroom where I desire spontaneity and not chaos…