I'm not sure if many of you know but I dabbled in teaching for a little bit whilst I was setting up my first business. I had had an epiphany whilst travelling to see a friend who was volunteering at a school in Arusha, Tanzania for Planet Wheeler. I believed that education was the way to change the world. I thought that by becoming an educator I could make a greater impact by providing the knowledge and skills for young people to drive social and environmental change in the world.
On return to Melbourne I enrolled on a Masters course at the University of Melbourne. Not one to do things in halves. I became fascinated with problem-based learning and geographical thinking (critical and inquiry skills into understanding the world, the people in it, and how to 'manage' it). My thesis delved further into how problem based learning can help students develop these critical thinking skills and use it for innovative ways to tackle social and environmental problems.
In the real world, i.e. in a school, this was a lot harder to implement for every student. I created a curriculum for an enrichment programme that used design thinking and problem-based learning principles, whereby the students had to emphasise with their surroundings, create a problem statement, ideate a solution, build a prototype, and pitch their idea to the stakeholders (teachers/students/principal staff). It was a great success, and the students loved the course. However, this was an enrichment programme and the students on this particular course had been chosen to take the subject based on their high achievement in Humanities subjects (Geography/History) in the previous years. How could I develop this for students of all abilities? I didn't teach for long enough to find out - business quickly got the better of me.
Teachers have a very tough job. Expectations of them are high, resources are (usually) very low, and class sizes are large and inclusive. There are a myriad of learning abilities, learning styles, interests, and motivation in the students present and the teacher has to create the best learning environment for all in 45 minutes. Believe me, it is not an easy task. If you are passionate, you will spend hours designing and creating a lesson plan that will engage and develop skills in all of the students. Then reflect and reevaluate in time for the next lesson. There are many great teachers that are doing this, but they still work within limitations (and spend most evenings and weekends preparing lessons, marking, giving feedback, or completing the necessary paperwork essential to continue to be allowed to teach).
It does make me think that the way we teach, having physical schools and set curricula needs a bit of innovation itself. The way we're teaching students isn't working, it isn't working for the teachers, and it isn't working for the students. If we want to prepare students for an ever-changing world, what are we doing to prepare them? How are we going to make education more relevant, breed innovation, and ultimately prepare every young person in the country for the future? How can we support great teachers in preparing students of all ages for their future?
Education is one of the most powerful forces of change; great teachers should be appreciated every week of the year, but especially so this week. If you know or meet a teacher this week, give your appreciation.
P.S. Can someone disrupt the P-12 school system, please?
by Samantha Hurley
Written by Samantha Hurley
Sam co-founded Marketing Entourage after spending 18 years in senior sales & marketing positions for companies such as Lonely Planet and The Press Association in Melbourne, New York and London. Sam started out in a design agency and used design thinking to help develop a product that went on to revolutionise the media industry in 2002. Sam also teaches Digital Marketing and Data Driven Marketing at General Assembly. The daughter of an engineer and a designer, she learned to code and design at a young age. She feels she has the mind of a scientist and the heart of an artist and likes to sit in the space where creativity, technology and business converge.