I entered the field of education as a teacher, and I still cannot imagine that any other career could match the challenge, satisfaction and excitement (or exhaustion!) of communicating with young people and igniting their interest and enthusiasm. My concept of what constitutes good teaching and effective learning can be condensed into some very simple and very pragmatic principles:
- Children are naturally curious and enjoy learning, and they learn most effectively when they are challenged, engaged and happy; there is no need to compromise academic achievement in order to achieve that situation. Education should stimulate, develop and channel this natural learning impulse; the earlier this is done, the more dramatic the benefit.
- All children deserve the opportunity to exploit their full potential, and being inclusive of all styles, needs and aptitudes should not limit the ability to achieve high standards (though it does increase the skill required of the teacher). Learning is not a ‘zero-sum’ activity; the success of one student does not require the failure of another.
- The goal of educators should not be limited to ensuring that students qualify for university or a career, but that they also go on to have a discernible and positive impact on society. Education should not be seen primarily as an economic investment, but a social one.
- Ambitious goals entail the possibility of failure, and challenging students academically, physically and socially requires a risk-taking culture in which support and encouragement are always available. Achievement should be celebrated, but effort and persistence in the face of difficulty must also be given full recognition and respect.
- In an age when all of the information in the world is available to anyone with a smart ‘phone, the mere mastery of curriculum content is of little lasting worth. More important are the skills required to access, interpret and assemble information into understanding, and the values that will determine how it is used.