World Teachers’ Day 2014


Last Sunday was World Teacher’s Day. I could never be a school teacher but I do admire those who choose that profession and who work to build into the lives of young people all around the world. I know that many are selfless and dedicated and that they are an absolute credit to their profession. They are extremely deserving of more than a single day to recognise their contribution to the young lives they help to shape.

I’ve written about my experiences with school teachers before in my post Words that Scar.

I’ve often heard people talking about the amazing teachers they’ve had and the difference they’ve made in their lives. While I’m glad that there are many amazing teachers around the world who have been such incredible motivators and role models for others, whenever I hear people talking about them I must admit to feeling some sadness. I never had one of those wonderful teachers.

So while I can’t claim to have had any teachers who have inspired me towards greatness, I know that each of my teachers played a part in bringing me to where I am today.

On the other hand, I think that there are many people who may not have any official title as ‘teacher’ but who have taught me so much. Close friends, workmates, pastors and others have all played their part in teaching me. While I may be slow to learn the lessons that many have taught, I know that a variety of people have influenced me. My wife and my children have been great teachers in so many ways.

Who are the people who don’t hold the title of ‘teacher’ yet have taught you some great life lessons?

You may or may not have had career teachers who have inspired you but I’m sure you’ve had others in your life who have been unofficial teachers. Who are they and what have they taught you?

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Our most powerful learning tool?


How much time do you spend writing each day? What’s that? You don’t write at all?

I am utterly convinced that the very act of writing can make a major difference in the way we think and learn. If we’re serious about learning we should get serious about writing. That’s not to say we should all become professional writers but we should certainly all spend time getting our thoughts down on paper or even tapped into a computer.

Here’s something Professor Brian Cambourne said at an education conference I attended in Singapore back in 1986.

Writing, in my opinion, is the most potent tool of learning and thinking that the human race has got available to it. We need to write in order to find out what we think and in order to shape our learning. The evidence from cognitive psychology and psycholinguistics is quite conclusive. Writing is a highly complex act which depends upon analysis and synthesis of many different levels of thinking. I have a strong conviction that sustained engagement with the written form of language actually changes us cognitively.

I wish I could share the entire lecture that he gave but I only have it in video format and I’m not going to transcribe it all for you. Sorry.

What’s he saying? To over simplify, he’s saying that the very act of writing helps us to map out our thoughts and helps us learn. The processes that we use for writing are more powerful than the acts of simply speaking or listening.

Most bloggers would know this to be true. Even in the simple act of writing a blog post we can write, read, correct, read, restructure and read again before we finally hit the publish button. We take care to make sense and to be understood and it is in this process that we often more fully develop our own understanding of the subject matter.

Cambourne’s big concern is that most of us don’t engage with the written form of language nearly enough. Somewhere in the process of learning literacy we have adopted the thought that we’re not very good at writing and that it’s not something that most of us would do voluntarily without very good reason.

Even though the standard is sometimes less than brilliant, blogging has at least got millions of people mapping out their thoughts through writing.

What about you? Do you find writing difficult? How much do you write each day? Do you find that writing helps you clarify things in your own mind? Does it help you learn?

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Unconventional Learning

I was reading in the local paper today that Westminster Primary School teacher, Brooke Topelberg, was last nigt awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools. She was awarded at a ceremony at Parliament House in Canberra.

The judges praised her for using unconventional methods to teach students including the use of puppets and garden patches. Well done Brooke.

I’m wondering what unconventional ways have you learnt something. I remember back in 2000 having a bicycle accident on a ride across Australia. I learnt, by rubbing my face along the edge of the road at high speed after coming off my bike, that the signs that said, “Beware – Soft Edges” weren’t necessarily truthful. They weren’t soft at all.

Have you learnt something the hard way or just in an unconventional way? Sitting in a classroom may be necessary but we often learn in very different ways. Can you remember a teacher who did things a little differently? Did that help you learn?

What unconventional ways have you learnt something important?

Please leave a comment or two about your own learning experiences.

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