What if the only constant in teaching is constant change?


A Bob Dylan song, which, as a teenager, I use to turn up as loudly as I could when it came on the radio (the only source of music in our house), carried the following lyrics:

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticise
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.

My father, when he was around, would turn the music down. To his credit he never turned it off, although I’m sure he would have loved to do so. His parting words as he left the room would be along the lines of: “What a lot of rubbish!”

Years after his death, my mother was visiting me in Hong Kong. On the morning after her arrival, a machine in the corridor leading to the kitchen leapt into life and began spewing out sheets of paper. “What on earth is that?” asked my mother? “It’s called a fax,” I said. “How on earth do they get all that paper down that tiny wire?” she replied in wonder. Although she never criticised what she didn’t understand, she was well aware that the times were a changin’.

It was the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who said that in life the only constant is constant change. However, not even he could have foreseen the rapidity of change in the world today. For years, I struggled to keep up with changing technology. Then, putting my pride aside, I gave up and asked my children for help.

It’s true that some teachers of my generation resist change: they have their pedagogical routines, the routines work (for them, at least, if not for their students) and they won’t get a salary increase for doing things differently. For most, however, it’s less a matter of resistance, than an inability to keep up with the pace of change. I have observed elementary schoolchildren in rural schools in Asia who are more technically adept than extremely bright graduate students of mine who are in their 20s and 30s.

My response to the question of whether or not learning technology is a turn-off to older teachers is: “It depends.” No teacher who is worthy of the title will turn their back on any innovation –  technological or otherwise – that is going to result in more effective learning outcomes for their students. However, most older teachers, and many younger ones as well, are rightly sceptical of change for change’s sake.

Share your innovation for a chance to win the Pearson ELT Teacher Award
We’ve launched a new Pearson ELT Teacher Award! Aiming to recognise and celebrate teachers, the Award is open for any English teacher who has developed innovative ways of teaching in their classrooms. You may have used technology or digital tools in unique ways or re-invented traditional tasks. The Award encourages teachers to enter who can show that their ideas are not only unique but have improved learner engagement, motivation and success.

Prizes include all-expenses paid trips to IATEL or TESOL. Deadline for entries is 1st January, 2017 so enter or nominate a teacher today!

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