Worm's-Eye View; The Impact of Policy and Research on the Classroom Practitioner
by Neil McBeath
This paper is written from the perspective of a long-serving expatriate classroom practitioner working in the Arab Gulf, and is based on a presentation given at the 2013 Fourth Annual Gulf Comparative Education Symposium. It offers a critical examination of Kennedy's (2001) model of Language Policy and Planning, explaining how that model operates within the Arab Gulf educational context, but simultaneously questioning Kennedy's relegation of teachers to the category of "variables".
The paper argues that teachers ought to be regarded as far more than delivery agents who are tasked with passing on a set curriculum to a homogenous student population, and guaranteeing results that will satisfy the demands of external stakeholders. It suggests that truly dedicated teachers share specific inspirational qualities, and have also adopted recognizable "best practices" that make then central to the entire educational process.
Context domain learner planning policy stakeholder variable.
This paper is entitled Worm's-Eye View – and I am the worm. I am a serving classroom teacher, or classroom practitioner if you want to use a fancier euphemism. I began teaching in 1972, and in the last 40 years, one thing that has remained unchanged is the contempt that many employers, managers and stakeholders demonstrate when dealing with classroom practitioners.
McCourt (2005; 157) explains:-
"This is the situation in the public schools in America. The further you travel from the classroom the greater your financial and professional rewards. Get the license, teach for two or three years. Take courses in administration, supervision, guidance, and with your new certificates you can move to an office with air-conditioning, private toilets, long lunches, secretaries. You won't have to struggle with large groups of pain-in-the-arse kids. Hide out in your office and you won't even have to see the little buggers."
This aspect of education policy, therefore, probably has global application. Paradoxically, lesser rewards are offered to those teachers who fulfill their job descriptions and actually TEACH. Dornyei (2001; 169) suggests that this situation can be rectified by "introducing titles such as 'super-teachers' or 'master-teachers' within the educational hierarchy" but that is questionable.
The award of titles like "Teacher of the Year" apart from engendering jealousy and divisions within staffrooms, also offer hostages to fortune. There is, for example, the case of Sandra Hadsock, who taught at the Central High School in Hernando Country, Florida. In 2010 she was their Teacher of the Year. Do a Youtube search for Sandra Hadsock and you find a video of her punching a student in the face. She actually does it twice. This inevitably raises doubts, not only about the validity of her award but also, possibly unfairly, about the other candidates for that same title.
In the 1970s, British Further Education was encumbered with an almost Byzantine hierarchy of titles. The intention was to offer a clear career path. In reality, it encouraged ambitious teachers to plan their next career move almost as soon as they arrived in post, creating a level of disruption that a simpler arrangement might have avoided.
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