I was speaking to a roomful of School Leaders in Sydney a couple of weeks ago and I said something that I hadn’t planned to. I like to be prepared for such keynote presentations but part of that planning is always to leave just a little room for ad libbing. Some would call it flexibility and creativity. The truth is I’m just winging it and having a little fun.
I was speaking to the need for us to see teachers in a new light. That we now need to be:
- facilitators of critical thinking.
- modelers of soft skills such as resilience and empathy.
- providers of interesting problems to solve.
Then I said (totally ad libbing now) that we can no longer view ourselves as “knowledge sprinklers”. I actually lapsed for a fleeting moment into that awful sprinkler dance that rose to temporary popularity a couple of years ago. How embarrassing!
But you know what, I stand by the point. We simply cannot, as educators, continue to view our role as being to deliver knowledge. We can’t tolerate practitioners who stand at the front of the room spraying the curriculum across their students in the hope that some of them absorb it.
When the internet was invented 35 years or so ago, we lost the right to be mere keepers, and/or sprayers, of knowledge. Parents, weary from incessant questioning, no longer say “Ask your teacher.” They say “Look, just Google it.”
No teacher can compete with Google when it comes to knowledge. That game is over.
But this doesn’t mean the role of the Teacher is obsolete. What it does mean is that the purpose of a Teacher has shifted and that we have a clear choice in front of us. We can adapt or risk a painful irrelevance.
Spraying students with knowledge from the front of a classroom cannot be our current or future default. This role has no place in a post-internet school. This is doing education TO students when the new frontier lies in doing education WITH our students. It’s also doing our professional status and reputation harm.
Learning WITH others has always been a more powerful and meaningful way to learn. It’s time we stepped confidently into the new title of “cooperative problem-solving guru”. Just maybe we don’t even need to be called “Teachers” at all any more, just to point out the shift we’ve made to ourselves and to others?
That last question was ad libbed too. Feel free to ad lib an answer.