The teaching profession is going through a crisis world-wide. Threatened by austerity and cuts, the rise of technology, moral relativity and political correctness, added to reduced respect from their constituents, teachers need a standard-bearer. Someone to light the way to a surer future.
Stand up Isatu Kargbo.
In a Sierra Leonean classroom the size of a large cupboard, she manages to enthuse her children with passion and no shortage of knowledge. During my time with her, she made peppermint from its base ingredients, at one point hanging the congealed mixture on a nail from the wall.
This example is but one which isolates a key teaching skill which I fear is in decline – that of modelling. Children need to see things visually and I am sceptical about the impact of information technology in this area. I was one of those class teachers who just missed out on interactive whiteboards in my classroom and I’ve always felt that it could have added something fabulous to my practice back then. Looking round schools now, I’m not convinced that teachers themselves are convinced about the efficacy of this technology. Children are saturated with virtual worlds now, and remote modelling, often from a computer, is not exciting enough and therefore a poor replacement for the teacher.
So a teacher who can demonstrate a skill – beautiful singing, a clever mathematical solution, the dissection of a heart (yes, I’ve seen this in class) and, going back to Isatu, making peppermint from scratch – can leave a mark on a child not simply in terms of knowledge, but in terms of wonderment.
Isatu is a force of nature. Not all teachers can be like this. But surely all teachers should be given the confidence from leaders to show off their talents, even if it means hanging a hot, viscous mixture from a nail in their classroom.