by Patricia Arnaiz Castro / ULPGC Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, those in the teaching profession had to get used to hearing things like "teachers are no longer as necessary as they used to be", and "there are so many resources and tutorials on the Internet that I can learn by myself". Well, the Internet is indeed a never-ending and invaluable source of content, but we all know that most of that content needs to be filtered before becoming relevant and useful for learning purposes. We are also aware of how essential it is to access that content through someone who can guide our approach. The fundamental job of teaching is nothing more than helping students to use those resources available to all by developing their abilities to think critically, solve problems and make judgments.
There is no substitute for the teacher who designs relevant learning experiences for their unique population of students. In classrooms ranging from infant education to university, good teachers guide students through learning activities, give inspiring and encouraging words, make sure no one is falling behind, encourage divergent thinking, counsel students as they grow and mature and offer gentle reorientation when needed. The most successful teachers share common characteristics that set them apart from the rest. They are perfectly aware that what really makes a difference is not related only to the delivery of content. The two most important additional aspects are attitude toward students and the particular subject, and the effort put into every detail. As I always remind my students at the Teacher Training College, teaching is one of the most challenging career choices, absolutely vital to our society's social, cultural and economic health. In her book To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (1960) says that “people generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for” (p. 174). If we look and listen attentively, we can clearly see that teachers are more needed than ever.
Yet the reference to "good" or "successful" teachers I made above can be deceiving. The ability to teach effectively is often seen as something one is born with, and this idea has been strengthened in various films in which teachers appear as special individuals. By focusing on good or successful teachers, the importance of educating teachers seem to be underplayed. It also ignores a reality that all of us involved in education should have very clear in our minds: the main aim of any educational system is widespread student success. Quality teaching is the way to achieve this aim. Furthering this idea, the only way to ensure the highest levels of instruction in both the virtual and physical classrooms, is to invest in teacher education and support. Training and continuing professional development is precisely what this European project is about. All the work carried out by the participants in this project on creativity, languaging, deeper learning and dynamic assessment has one and only goal: to contribute to the quality of education around the world. And this we can only achieve through teachers, because teachers are the "vehicles" through which we can reach students.
Harper, L. (1960). To Kill a Mockingbird. Warner Books, Inc.