So, I was flitting through the tweets from the weekend trying to catch up on what was occurring. The first thing I noticed was the announcement by the Teaching Council that teachers would have to do mandatory ‘upskilling’ (http://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/regular-upskilling-to-become-
A few things struck me about this. Firstly, it is regrettable that the Council referred to ‘upskilling’. Teaching is not a mechanical task which can be ‘upskilled’. It is primarily a communicative art the underlying principles of which, while fairly well established, shift and change in their applicability each day depending on the classes and individuals one teaches. Knowledge and skills, especially nowadays, can be acquired easily. The ability to inspire and motivate, to cajole and lead, to push and pull are an art that can be easily described in a series of steps but which are far harder to practice.
Education is a values-laden endeavour and referring to Continuous Professional Development (CPD) as a matter of ‘upskilling’ raises questions about how we currently value
- the work of teachers,
- the standards of Initial Teacher Education (“how come teachers weren’t properly trained in the first instance”),
- the value tried-and-tested but ‘older’ approaches to classroom teaching and
- more particularly (because times do change), it raises questions about who gets to decide what ‘upskilling’ is valid and ultimately what that upskilling is.
If we go on current fads, any teacher not learning to code could arguably described as not ‘upskilling’ (in case you belong to the ‘fear-of-change-argument’ brigade, I run a code club in my school).
In some ways, the announcement that the Teaching Council will ‘allow’ teachers to decide what is CPD is positive. The Council says that it is coming to this with a blank slate. Except it isn’t. The Council has been looking into the issue of CPD for the last 2 years and references to practice in Scotland highlight the fact that the Council already has some idea of what it would like. I think this is an okay and necessary thing. But it shouldn’t be dressed up in the innocent argument of ‘we’ll let the teachers decide’.
Personally, I am very much in favour of CPD. I think a teacher’s increment should be awarded on the basis of CPD credits earned. However, a teacher who is not going with the latest fad in teaching or education should not be considered as failing to maintain their fitness to teach. (cf Pasi Sahlberg’s criticism of the GERM movement).
What’s equally bad is the context into which all this comes. Both the DES and the NCCA are involved in CPD, as are the PDST. There are so many agencies, each scrambling for relevance, that short of becoming performing circus monkeys, it is hard to see how teachers can meet even more demands on their time and energy. On top of this, the Council took a day of celebration of what we do to tell us we are going to have to do more. Guess which of these stories the media jumped on.
At some point, someone is going to have to ask these agencies to butt out and let the teachers get on with it. So if the Teaching Council feels the need to look to other jurisdictions for inspiration, they could do worse than look at Finland. In Finland, they trust teachers to stay on top of their game. Their Initial Teacher Education (ITE) instils this in them.*
Finally, I came across this.
@reginawit @FEILTE Through #FÉILTE we are beginning to tear down those walls! Roll on 3 October 2015! #edchatie— Teaching Council (@TeachingCouncil) October 4, 2014
I read it to my wife. Her facial reaction was immediate and after a moment’s thought said ‘What?’. I read it again. Another ‘What?’.
Notwithstanding the brilliance of, it is preaching to the choir AND we have to wait a whole year before we do it again!
I’d much prefer if the Council campaigned long and hard to have the dual pay scales reversed. It should hold to account those ETBs for their use of unqualified ‘tutors’ in place of properly trained teachers. It should pro-actively promote in the media, throughout the year, the work of teachers and challenge every media editor every time the media spreads some white-wash about ‘failing teachers’. Instead of dreaming up ways to get teachers to try harder to please the masses, how about getting the message to the masses before Newstalk has another go at us. How about hiring a PR firm with all the money teachers pay for their annual ongoing ever after never ending registration.
The Teaching Council is a great idea but I think it still has to prove its worth and value to teachers. We have jumped through enough hoops already. How about some return on this?
* (another trick the Teaching Council missed when it ok’d existing ITE programmes without adherence to certain specific minimum standards such as compulsory ICT modules and specific practice in SEN differentiation).