Just a word now on Papert’s chapter 4 Teachers. Admittedly, I don’t have an enormous amount of teaching experience, but I do feel qualified enough to say that I sometimes think teachers are like foot soldiers in the educational establishment. “Foot soldiers” makes it sound like we are involved in a war, but that is not exactly the meaning that I wish to convey. My ideas run more along the lines of saying that teachers are at the front of the battle lines – once again, it is not exactly a war – in trying to implement the latest trends in teaching and in trying to cooperate with the administrators by appeasing their wishes for instruction to be carried out a certain way. Papert does mention the fact that most administrators were once teachers and have an idea of what we are going through. Sometimes I wonder if they have forgotten what is like to deal with 100-150 different personalities on a daily basis and try to teach to these growing individuals who are not robots, but real, live, walking and breathing human beings who have others issues and problems to deal with that cause education to be a little less than close to the top of their to-do list for the day.
If the learning doesn’t happen, teachers catch flak from parents and administrators. There are some parents who participate in their children’s education and team up with the teacher to help the student. Too much of the time, student accountability does not take a major role in the educational process. But, the fact is teachers and parents can’t do all of the work. Teachers definitely should not be held accountable for every piece of the learning equation. The fact that the latter seems to be the case (and that for the amount of education required of teachers, the pay is low) is the reason that many people do not choose teaching careers.
As a teacher, some of my thoughts about teaching reform mentioned in this chapter involve the community at large who think that teachers are supposed to know everything. I am not uptight about surrendering some of the control in my classroom. In fact, as a non-traditional student, I have had enough experiences with students younger than myself to know that we all bring something useful to the table and it’s much better if we share than try to be a bully and horde everything. But, I think that some parents and others in the public may not have a proper respect for teachers or the methodology. That is, until a generation passes through such a system and the benefits are understood.
Also, unless administrators are well versed in this learning situation, teachers may have to stand strong against the winds blowing from that direction.
In conclusion, the revamping of an educational system in the direction that computers are leading is untried and unproven ground. Papert indicates that teachers who are ready for this change should be supported. But, (and I really don’t like to sound so pessimistic) I think that teachers will remain the foot soldiers on the front lines. The good news is that those of us who are ready and willing to try to make the change have interesting work up ahead.