Last week, I came across a wonderful talk given by an American educator called Rita Pierson where she argues that every child needs a champion. Rita mentions a conversation that she had with a colleague who said to her “They don’t pay me to like the kids.” Her response was brief and packed with wisdom – “Kid’s don’t learn from people they don’t like.” This resonates with my experience of teaching in a local secondary school where far too many of my colleagues saw their role as simply to teach, with children being there to learn (what the teacher taught). Relationship was irrelevant – learning was a process that occurred when teachers taught and students learnt. Rita quotes James Comer, a professor of Child Psychiatry who states “No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship.” Rita also says – “teaching and learning should bring joy”. I love this! She has hit the nail on the head – absolutely
These comments are a million miles from what passes as important within the UK education system at the moment. Don’t get me wrong, there are still great teachers in our schools impacting the lives of young people – but far too often they do it despite the system and not because of it – and this is the real tragedy – that comments like this from Rita’s colleague – “They don’t pay me to like the kids” are so common-place and even when they are not spoken, they are too often felt and lived through by those in powerful places within our schools.
The challenge for those of us involved in online learning is to find a way to build Rita’s response – “Kid’s don’t learn from people they don’t like” into the way we prioritise and work online. We need to cultivate relationships through the new medium and not use it as an excuse maintain distance.