PPTA President

Image Angela Roberts PPTA president 2013-2014

News and views from PPTA president Angela Roberts.

Includes the PPTA News viewpoint and his responses to various education issues raised in the media.

(Angela began her presidency mid January 2013)



Careless chalk: the portrayal of teaching

New Zealand Post Primary Teachers' Association / Te Wehengarua (PPTA) President Robin Duff questions the portrayal of secondary teaching by the media and self proclaimed education experts.

Careless chalk

One of the great things about being a teacher is meeting up with past students and seeing what fine young men and women they have grown into "“ even the ones about whom you had more than a few doubts. Of course, it's sometimes a bit awkward when they remember your name but you haven't a clue who they are "“ even though, irritatingly, you can often recall with clarity the name of their best friend. The excuse (besides old age) is that they have changed much more than you have. As the coffee cup has it, "old teachers never die; they just lose their class".

Illustrating education stories with the image of a teacher writing on a blackboard

There are some things though, that never change. It seems that stories about schools always have to be illustrated with a picture of a teacher writing on a blackboard "“ though there are a few sub-editors who boldly leap into the 1970s and show a green chalk board. Whiteboards are never shown and interactive white-boards, data projectors and computers only appear if the story is specifically about those items. The medical equivalent would be to illustrate a story about nurses with a picture of an iron lung.

This practice might be explained by unthinking use of symbolism or it might reflect the human tendency to generalise from very limited experience. It might be that that these pictures are genuinely how these individuals remember their school days and it hasn't occurred to them that it's not like that any more.

Illustrating speeches with the facile declaration that in education very little has changed for 100 years

People who imagine themselves to be educational visionaries have been dining out on a similar anachronism. As they tell it, anyone teleported back to a school classroom in 1912 would immediately feel right at home because so little has changed in education. In contrast, we would all notice the difference if we were to be subject to medical treatment of 100 years ago.

Except that such comparisons are a triumph of form over substance. It's about as accurate as saying that cars haven't changed because they still have four wheels and a steering wheel somewhere at the front. On that basis aeroplanes are pretty much the same as they were 100 years ago too. The idea that a teacher trained for the 1912 classroom could deliver a lesson effectively in 2012 is simply nonsense.


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