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The Task of the Educator

The success of education has to do with the way in which educators present and communicate knowledge of the world to young people. In each lesson, of course, the balance between progressing through a body of knowledge and the engagement of the student with that knowledge is vital. But the most critical part of education, the one thing that makes it work, is this: it must be alive and dynamic and must always strive to present the world and its various aspects in the most interesting way possible.

Yes of course a well-designed lesson should take account of this - that's a given. But education should never be restricted to mere lessons. Rather, education should be expanded to embrace wherever and whenever possible, real physical contact with whatever is being studied, live demonstrations, visits and outings, real, living experiences which make the thing come to life for the young person studying it - in effect, bringing Life to life.

Educators should never be content with the 19th century ‘chalk and talk’ model of classroom-based education, nor should they ever be convinced that children, bursting with energy and curiosity, will really grasp something in its entirety in a classroom environment, even with excellent lessons. Life doesn't happen inside a room or through a screen. Our task as educators, and the thing which should make us stand out, is that we should be constantly striving to present subjects in their most interesting form, which means dynamic, attractive, inspiring, gob-smacking, exhilarating, enticing and so on.

Beware of complacency on this. Thinking that you have devised a lesson plan or a scheme of work which 'gets the point across' is one thing; actively working to present something in its most alive, dynamic and invigorating form is another. What 'got the product' with a previous class may need re-inventing to get the same product with a new class. And besides, shouldn't you be always working to get a better product? By that I don't just mean more understanding, though that's part of it: I mean a better product in the sense that the student response should be 'Wow!' rather than merely 'I got it'.

If educators are doing this properly, there is no rest for them. There should never be a point at which they could say 'Right, that's done then. Curriculum in place; programmes running; students graduating as products; school ticking over.' No. Educators should always be looking at the student in front of them and asking 'How can this individual student's grasp of life through a particular subject be upgraded so that he or she has a continually dropped jaw?' Or 'What can I do to ensure that I not only get this product per the curriculum targets but leave this student burning with a desire to engage more deeply with life?' Or 'Having opened a window successfully onto some part of some subject, how can I kick open the door and have all these students rush through joyfully?'

It's usually hard work even getting to Square One with all of this - making sure that basics are there and are going in. But the real work hasn't yet really begun in a sense. That's the work of ensuring every day, every week and every year that every student, no matter what natural abilities they have or what shape they are in, recognises that education is making it possible for them to experience deeper, richer, more meaningful lives in both small and large ways.

Every chapter should be better than the one before, and it's the educator’s job to make it so.

Good fortune with it.

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