For over twenty years, I have been involved in education, in one form or another. I have been entrusted with the academic advancement of children of all ages and abilities, steering them towards tests and exams which they are required to undertake at various times in their academic journeys. Tests and exams which are designed to ultimately award (even reward) them with a trophy letter, number or, in some cases, a combination of the two.
But, whisper it. I’m getting to the stage where I don’t care how well a student performs in an exam. As a teacher, I should probably have a serious word with myself about this state of mind. However, I find myself repeating this mantra more as a person who believes in knowledge, the arts, good conversation and a world full of articulate, well-rounded people who can hold a conversation and take a view on an issue.
You see, I worry that our education system is putting too much emphasis on academic achievement but not enough on the pursuit of knowledge for the sake of knowledge and self-betterment . If a student is predicted top grades, brilliant, but if they are not able to form their own views on the world they live in, question the world they live in, engage with the world they live in…well, that concerns me.
Nobody likes to make a mistake. As a consequence, we don’t always risk asking a question, trying something out. I have seen many a student leaving a question unanswered, through fear of not knowing the answer straight away or through thinking that their answer will not be the right answer.
Now, if you are one of those people, I want to congratulate you, shake your hand and then sit down and have a chat with you. Because you realise that you don’t have the answers to everything and nor are you a person who memorised the perfect answer to the question from an otherwise boring lesson you attended a week last Tuesday.
And when I’ve made you feel comfortable with this, how about you just try and vocalise your thoughts on the topic in your own words and then see how that sounds spoken aloud? If you have a view, an idea an observation, I’d love to hear it. And when I’ve listened, I’ll give you my view on things; possibly mirroring yours in some instances or giving you pause for thought in others. Before we know it, we have a dialogue going, an exchange of ideas, a sharing.
Obviously, I can’t personally meet and greet every single person who reads this. But look around yourself and single out the people you trust. Parents, carers, teachers, friends. I guarantee, there will be someone who would love to hear your thoughts, encourage your questioning, give you the inspiration to delve deeper. As a teacher, I ache for the students who ask a question, especially those who have decided they didn’t like the answer they were given in that boring lesson a week last Tuesday.
And if there is nobody to hand to bounce your thoughts and ideas off? Get that wonderful bit of technology out of your pocket and type your thoughts, ideas or questions into your search engine of choice. Oh, if I’d had mobile and web-based technology to hand when I was in my teens…but enough about my thwarted plans for world domination.
You will be surprised how much more there is in the online world, beyond YouTube, vines and updated statuses. Other people out there are probably asking the same questions as you, looking for someone else’s opinion on something. The possibilities really are endless.
I don’t care how well you do academically. I care that you do the very best that you can do, at all times and in all circumstances. Question, challenge, laugh sometimes and rant others.
This world needs more people like you.
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Only teachers, parents who know and love children are qualified to understand childrens dreams and aspirations. We are confident in assessing childrens needs and addressing them both academically and emotionally so that they can engage and attempt to enhance the world in which they find themselves. Thoughts from an early years- tears teacher of 30 years in Scotland, England, Canada and America
Please do mot continue to insult us NICK GIBB and Nicky Morgan
Excellent essay, Nick – a convincing message expressed fluently and succinctly.
Helping students to become life long learners has always been my goal. Learning happens when we make mistakes and ask questions. By modelling this with my pupils and showing them we are ALL on this journey, I hope they see education as a continual process that doesn’t stop when their schooling finishes.
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