“Teaching with freedom, for freedom starts with a different mind-set”
Teaching an open event of collaborative learning or measured, set goals? Do we give our teachers the freedom to share their knowledge in their own way? Or do we give our children the freedom on how they learn, what they learn and how they want to achieve their qualification?
My curiosity towards Belgian education was put to the test on my return to my homeland in 2016.
From the old fashioned, now illegal tactics, where sticks and heavy-handed discipline of repetitions are applied behind the school benches towards innovative education where classes and degrees are drawn open to the students' free choice.
As far as Belgium is concerned I noticed so far, what seems an impossible goal to achieve, a lot of frustration and despair to adapt our education in a positive way. Wisdom and virtuosity in Belgium education? Gert Biesta describes in his article on "wisdom and virtuosity in education and teaching", the three relationship domains:
the socialization domain: the social context of human well-being;
the qualification domain: the area of knowledge of skills and life experience on which man is qualified;
and lastly the subjectification domain or personal individual innate qualities.
To bring good education these three constantly changing areas that have to be kept in balance.
I fully agree with Biesta's statement that teaching is all about passing on and learning of life-skills or practical wisdom that is necessary to be able to function properly and to adapt to our constantly changing society. The question is how we can keep these three domains in balance.
The big loss I experience in Belgium is freedom. Our "social" system binds our people with laws that barely function in this time and age (socialization domain). Belgium has an enormous abundance of talented, intelligent people with a dynamic mindset who are ready to take action but are blocked by the overprotected static system (out-dated laws) that is not adaptable to today's society.
The world has already opened its doors for several years, so the increasing immigration flow and language diversity can no longer be ignored in Belgium, Europe and therefore not from our education. Despite the integration of CLIL (content learning integrated languages) in our education, languages are still kept short by our language legislation and by teachers who do not have the knowledge to teach in other languages. On a world level, other countries are much more advanced in teaching general subjects in international languages. For example in Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands and Switzerland, some general subjects have already been taught for 20 years in other languages at choice by the student.
During this training I also found some frictions for the flourishing of our "innovative" education. Our government may have sown the m-decree, but seeds do not grow in soil that is not fed with the right resources.
A simple example: I fully agree with the m-decree, but many teachers are not trained for this diversity. This was also discussed in our interview with the school care-coordinator of TIHF, Bruges. The old generation of school teachers who have been standing between the school walls for 25 years do not see the sudden drastic change or are afraid to lose their position by a specialized qualified teacher or someone with life experience in their field of education.
It is more important to first provide experienced teachers with the tools and resources they need so that they can be there for their students before indorsing the m-decree.
“The common sense of educating is what you know by heart and know well”.
My vision is in line with Biesta’s. You have to put passionate people in the schoolyard with life experience of the field there are educating. This way the reality of the professions with real-life illustrations can be taught to our youngsters. In my opinion you still learn better from your own practical experience rather than by the books. In any way, this is pretty much how I learned life through actions and deeds not by reading. Therefore the experiences, life wisdom, knowledge and personality of the teacher is crucial for our education.
Also in our teacher training we learned that practical experience and the differentiation of our pupils is important. But while they are teaching us future teachers, they do not applied this rule in our education program. Change always starts with yourself first. If the source does not change, how can it expect the rest to do so? "If the shepherd does not guard his sheep, the sheep will be lost."
So when we as teachers have to get the best out of our children, by observing and researching …
their instinctive and extinctive interests
the learning tools to stimulate their own learning process
… while being obstructed, where is the balance between these three educational domains?
Our pupils, our young people, our children have to come first, but if the teachers are thrown unarmed for the lions it is indeed "survival of the fittest" and this is the sensation I receive every time I enter a Belgian school.
So we are left with burned-out teachers, too little support and no flexibility from the government. There is a shortage of innovative learning resources, socio-emotional training, practical training, professional development, inadequate facilities, etc.
As long as this static attitude is maintained, our grass will never grow. It is time for our government to weed their weeds so that their flowers can flower. Learn intelligently, with open tutoring!
As a daydreamer, my educational vision seems surreal, but certainly not unrealistic. For me personally, the child, the pupil or student should be the most important subject as all necessary learning attributes depend on their own individual attitude, personality, interests and their way of absorbing the material.
Every child, human being is unique and existentially irreplaceable. In addition, for a healthy active spirit, it is important to be able to be you in this multicultural society. Every human learns differently and interprets differently. If we, as teachers, have to accommodate for everyone then flexibility and a dynamic way of thinking in education are inconceivable.
Our evolution, in all areas, may have gotten a bit out of hand over the past 10 years and has changed dramatically at a high speed. Everyone is constantly exposed to a richness of information that triggers all kinds of impulses for each individual. In addition, we have too high expectations of our children and therefore our children are sucked in this adult world to fast.
The focus should not only be the teachers towards the children. Parents are just as much a part of the learning process of their child and this starts from before giving birth. Unfortunately in today’s world parents are too busy making money leaving their children with their education in the hands of strangers. Consciously teaching and selecting is the message to be able to delve into the essence of matter.
Next to all off this learning, our children forgotten how to play. We must make room, time for our children to be children, let them play and make learning a fun enjoyable process of playing and discovering. Let our students experiment, make them see for themselves, let them learn from failure and successes. I think that this age-old way of saying speaks for itself: "We learn from failure, not from success.”
The concept of "open education" can be interpreted in many ways. To clarify my educational vision, I indicate the following points:
Conscious teaching and focused learning using clear learning languages. Selecting the essence, simplifying where desired and making content available for different learning styles.
Learning at your own pace, with challenging, motivating learning material and positive guidance. This means that students are no longer bound to the imposed years.
Learning from personal interests where general knowledge is integrated in a complete package that is connected to a specific field of education.
Encouraging curiosity and instigating curiosity by learning experimentally.
Learning from realistic situations therefore not from YouTube, Wiki or Google but from real-life practice.
Character and social development through open communication, project work and teamwork in which openness to culture and traditions is maintained without transferring values and convictions.
Not result-oriented but evaluated on their own evolution and product delivery that reflects their positive experience of learning and knowledge intake.
In order to apply all this, we need adapted learning tools for both students and teachers in a liveable, acceptable learning environment. Our environment has a huge influence on how we interpret and absorb information. It is advisable to provide a loving, playful, creative stimulating safe working environment that is spacious and preferably in a natural setting.
If we want to let our students learn independently or have them experiment in a social event, adjustments must also be made for this. To the great frustration of the overcrowded schools, our government isn’t providing sufficient budget and it seems that this will take several more generations to wait.
A teacher is an educator and student for life:
The task of a teacher does not only consist out of facilitating as a coach, teacher and educator but also as a researcher and practitioner. Practical professional oriented development is of great importance, because we can only pass on knowledge when we have experience in the field ourselves.
As a teacher, you remain a student for life. Your passion for learning and passing on knowledge should be the drive for learning new methods yourself.
To create balance, our society, qualitative knowledge and our target group must be merged in order to be able to function strongly as one team.
First support the teachers with the "tools" they need so that they can support the students.
Be dynamic in your way of thinking and working method, keep developing yourself, adapt to time, situation and environment.
Teach from your heart, share knowledge from your experience.
The teacher, the coach, must be highly intuitive, have insight and can consciously observe each one of their students. As a teacher you should have the ability to sense, almost predict, your students.
Making efforts and admiration for research is important in order to link your constructive feedback for the student.
As a co-interpreter you must be able to communicate openly with all parties concerned, with respect for the way of thinking, culture and language of the scholar and his parents or educators.
Finally, I want to conclude with:
Teaching is a gift, either you take it or you leave it.”
Mata, with love for education.
Gert Biesta: “Het beeld van de leraar: Over wijsheid en virtuositeit in onderwijs en onderwijzen.” (artikel is een bewerking van de lezing die Gert Biesta hield op het VELON/VELOV congres, Noordwijkerhout, maart 2011.)
Gert Biesta: “Over het prachtige risico van onderwijs” (onderzoeksonderwijs.net/2014/05/19/gert-biesta-over-het-prachtig-risico-van-onderwijs)
John Hattie: “Hoe effectief is handelsgericht werken?” (Praxisbulletin jaargang 31 - Nov. 2013)
Carol Dweck: “Mindset, de weg naar een succesvol leven naar C.Dweck”
Veerle Beel: “Het perfecte kind” (De Standaard)
Veerle Beel: “Ralph heeft nooit vrij” (De Standaard)