Wednesday, January 19

The Lonely Profession

The nature of teaching is such that teachers--from the very beginning of their career--spend most of their time in isolation from their colleagues--that is, behind the classroom doors. Classroom teachers make hundreds of decisions every day, and do so in isolation from peers or supervisors. Often, young educators resist seeking out advice, fearing to admit their shortcomings. In the best of our educational settings, mentoring and supervision are rare, and when it does exist experienced colleagues can at best only be present for a small fraction of beginner’s classroom activities. As someone else put it:
Teaching is not like other crafts and professions, whose members talk in a language specific to them and their work… Without such a framework, the neophyte is less able to order the flux and color of daily events and can miss crucial transactions which might otherwise be encoded in the categories of a developed discourse. Each teacher must laboriously construct ways of perceiving and interpreting what is significant. [Dan C. Lortie, Schoolteacher: A Sociological Study (U. of Chicago Press, 1975): 73-74.]
Click here for a report on how one profession (the U.S. military) has constructed a grass roots effort to enable its members to learn from each other. There are implications for education--but we must process them.


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