Monday, April 05, 2004

Holidays or school break?

To the casual observer the difference between these two 'labels' may be merely sematic, but to the term weary teacher it makes a mountain of difference (I love mixing metaphors - there is something so reckless about it!)

E (and just about every other person I know who is not a teacher) has been ribbing me about the term 'holidays'. I have been exercising great patience with these unfortunate souls while attempting to explain what the term 'holiday' actually means to teachers (or those many committed among us).

While I do have sometime to myself - i.e. a break from classes and the pressures of preparation and marking and supervision and failing test scores and yard duty and jaded colleagues and ICT problems and late nights and tired early mornings, all the rest of it (well no break from teacher bashing!) I CAN NOW DO SOME ACTUAL INTELLECTUAL WORK.

Teaching is best when there is an intellectual foundation to what we do. I guess this is the same for many things. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a rationalist, there are many areas of life that probably work just as well going on impulse or lust or whatever, but I also believe that most people don't think deeply enough about a whole lot of things - that we leave too much to others who don't think much either. Most things are just too important to leave to the unthinking (which often includes myself).

Of course this is not a simple issue (there is rarely a simple issue is there E!). The way that many workplaces and institutions are set up works against careful and deep thought and reflection. Schools for example, are places where it is very difficult to engage in any kind of extended dialogue about the whys and wherefores of the job. Often it is very difficult to even talk to anyone at all - except kids - and even then the kind of talk that one enagages in is heavily mediated by structures that opperate within the school - timetables, curriculum, buildings, the normal pattern for relationships with 'kids' etc. This is leaving alone the issue of actually speaking with other colleagues in any meaningful way. It is very difficult.

This doesn't mean it is impossible. It's not. KB and I have shown this during this first term. It is possible with effort and when a number of colleagues feel they HAVE TO and NEED TO and MUST. But at this point we come to another issue; the fact that teachers are very committed people and will generally 'put up' with whatever conditions are imposed upon them, so governments, businesses, administrations, etc. can impose 'quality assurance', outcomes ideology, testing regimes, whatever, and generally teachers will continue to do 'their' jobs with 'their kids' and let the world go by.

Something in me wonders if this is the best thing in the long run? Perhaps yes and perhaps no. It seems very passive and weak - should we be more engaged in our own profession and it's directions? But when one considers the rate of change in education, why would anyone bother to do anything? Despite all the 'whoha' things tend to go on the way they always have ... or do they?

Anyway, I have do get busy doing holday things ...


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