The Art of Teaching - Going, Going... : Walker Way Notes

The Art of Teaching - Going, Going...

by Colleen Walker on 10/24/16

When I was a younger teacher, an older, veteran teacher said that she had watched the same debate about education go on throughout her career. Is teaching a science or an art?

Over the years, I have pondered this question, and decided that good teaching is a mixture of the two. Sometimes it lends itself to the science side and at other times to the art side; however, too much of one creates an imbalance that robs from the whole experience of teaching and learning.

The science side encompasses all the statistics, percentages, test scores, and demographics. It is this science approach where money and funding also land. It levels the playing field, at least on paper, and allows for study of the details of the nameless, faceless masses.

The art side is what teachers fall in love with. This is where spontaneity, creativity and humanity rest. This is the force that calls to those who stay with teaching their whole lives. I'm not talking about those who move into administration. I'm talking about those whose classrooms are second homes where they pour their hearts out to willing and unwilling students alike. The art side holds the passion to make a difference.

Through the passing decades, as society has demanded more and more from public schools, government has leaned farther and farther to the science side of education. After all, the science side is easier to put on a spreadsheet and numbers are a good concrete grasping place especially for those who are not teachers. This shift sadly marks the deep diminishing of teaching as an art.

Education is losing the art side because teachers are dictated to by those in power who are not driven by the passion, or by the dream.

 Teachers are weighted down with more and more paperwork and charts and formulas that track this, that and countless other things. They are to be all things to all students, filling the gaps and making everyone whole and functioning. Then, when they fall short of this herculean task because teachers are mere mortals, they are blamed and punished for not fixing the ills of a selfish, immature society.

 The time for spontaneity is being done away with - treated as frivolous. Creativity is no longer funded - seen as a waste of tax payer dollars. The humanity of teaching is being squelched - too unpredictable throwing off statistical data. Teachers are now expected to be like robots as cold and predictable as the technology society so loves. The art, the heart of teaching is being killed off.

The students feel the loss even if they can't quite put their fingers on it. The older teachers know and shake their heads in dismay, but still trudge along with the hope that the pendulum will one day swing back before they are too old to live the dream.

If the art dies, what happens to those who are called? Those who crave the dream? Will there still be teachers? Perhaps so, but maybe not in the way most have known as a child, or dreamed about as a teacher. And what about the children? Will they live in a cold world of robots devoid of the spark of life, hungry for humanity? Perhaps, one day, the pendulum will swing back allowing for the play, the passion, the dreams of teaching to live again.

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