One of the songs I’ve been playing a lot recently is Paperfangs’ remix of Big Wave Riders’ ‘Republic Of The Average’. Into the first part of this mix Paperfangs drop an extract from John F Kennedy’s convocation speech at Amherst College from back in October 1963:
“There is inherited wealth in this country and also inherited poverty. And unless the graduates of this college and other colleges like it who are given a running start in life—unless they are willing to put back into our society those talents, the broad sympathy, the understanding, the compassion—unless they are willing to put those qualities back into the service of the Great Republic, then obviously the presuppositions upon which our democracy are based are bound to be fallible.”
This resonates for many reasons, not least because it seems to me that it captures the essence of why I believe being a teacher is one of the most personally rewarding professions anyone could enter. It also resonates because it strikes me that it is beholden on teachers to share with each other their own learning experiences - to put back into the service of, if not the Great Republic as perceived by Kennedy, at least a transformative structure that strives to genuinely democratise notions of learning.
In our current technological context this means that it should be the norm, not the exception that teachers develop global Personal Learning Networks and not be tied to the limiting physical confines of ‘their school’. It should be the norm, not the exception that teachers are engaged in ongoing reflective practice and publishing something of their working experiences and learning visions; not necessarily as a means of gathering further qualification but as a means of improving the quality of learning experience for students. These things should be as intrinsic and instinctive as lesson planning, and the skills required for doing so effectively should be valued as highly as any other learning and teaching skill.
This places responsibility on teacher training institutions, and it places responsibility on individual schools to embed those skills within the culture of teaching. More than anything though it places responsibility on the individual to accept that responsibility and to acknowledge it as at least as much of a moral obligation as a professional one.