The above headline is part tongue-in-cheek, part reality. Considering the considerable responsibilities and influence that any teacher has on the present and future of their students, teaching is not a profession to be entered into lightly or without due awareness of the multitude of ethical, professional and pedagogical obligations. In a world becoming increasingly closer through the vast array of digital communications and collaboration devices, it is essential that students in schools are not isolated in the classroom through such advances. Teaching and learning pedagogy must evolve alongside the considerable developments in the wider world. Failure to do so will not only render students irrelevant in the future but also arguably the non-progressive teachers.
The following are consequently my most dangerous teachers in the world:
1. The lecturer
I remember distinctly my undergraduate studies at Massey University in the early 1990s. Walking past the most colourful billboards extolling the quality, personalised education of the institution, I was therefore surprised and somewhat shocked to then enter a tiered lecture theatre consisting of up to 400 students and a lecturer. I then sat "receptively" while a lecturer lectured a one hour lecture consisting of up to 20 PowerPoint slides full of the exact spoken word and 1-2 slides featuring cartoons to evoke mirth and great laughter and engage our academic minds. When I entered the teaching profession, naturally as a product of my environment, I duly taught strictly in the lecturing style...for a very short time. Within a couple of weeks, I was bored, my students were bored and nobody was learning anything, least of all, the students. Yet this style often still prevails, albeit less commonly I hope than in the past. When students are now present with a "lecturer", the best and not so best students withdraw academically, philosophically and in many cases, ultimately physically from both classroom and institution.
2.The font of all knowledge
In a world where it is possible to find a answer or content online virtually anywhere, from anyone, and at anytime (whether from a local or international source or individual,) the font of all knowledge teacher is not only dangerous to student academic progress but also the development of their soft skills, to the detriment of success both inside and outside the classroom. The Khan Academy is one extraordinary example that has not only made the subject of Mathematics more relevant to the students of today but also in a context and manner accessible and digestible. What is unique about Khan Academy and other digital options such as Maths Buddy is that they allow students extraordinary independence to revisit, self-critique and learn effectively in bit-size portions that seem at stark odds with a traditional curriculum delivery. Teachers need to accept that they no longer reserve the right to hold all the relevant subject content and furthermore do not have to. This does not mean teachers are any less important in classroom; just that they now have a much modified role as content filterer and in developing students' critical analysis, judgements and adaptability within the curriculum context. I believe that this makes the teacher even more important in the classroom of today.
3. The technophobe
While many schools arguably fear most the early adopters of technology; the reality is that it is the the technophobe teacher, that fellow teachers, students and the wider community should fear the most. It is this teacher that due to either non-evidenced beliefs or perceptions, or a fear that technology will ultimately render their position irrelevant that potentially can cause the most disadvantage to students' academic skill-sets being suitably developed for the modern world and future outside and beyond the classroom. Whether it is through pedagogical ignorance, or a deliberately conscious decision to "teach the way they always have," such an existence is untenable and unethical in the modern day learning environment. Any teacher in the classroom today has had to accept that the student reception of content is now no longer purely via teacher distribution.
The choice of appropriate technology in a learning space (digital or otherwise) likewise must be an objective, rational decision and where possible, made primarily by the students. It does not matter and should not matter if the technophobe is deficient in certain elements of technological and/or digital learning, or even device use. What should determine the use of such learning tools for student understanding and achievement is the student preference and their digital and modern learning capabilities. Where a teacher must be superior to the students is in the acceptance that at least to some extent, students must be exposed and indeed in some cases even taught a base level of digital competency and citizenship across the curriculum, and where possibly at a deeper level in relevant subject spaces. One of my great satisfactions is seeing and hearing my students recommend appropriate use of modern learning/digital learning tools for both learning, assessment and of course collaboration. If the teacher is not a technophobe, lead; if not, get out of the students' way. In most cases, the students will lead and lead admirably.
5. "The classroom is my domain" believer
As an English teacher and senior administrator in a high school, I am suprised at the contrasting beliefs regarding ownership of the classroom that exists between primary school teachers and their secondary counterparts. In general, I am of the opinion that in most primary schools, the prevailing view is that it is the students' space first and teacher's space second (if not equal first). Juxtaposing this first view, in secondary education (high school, college etc.) there appears to be a firm belief that the classroom is "owned" by the teacher and the students are regularly invited guests and in a best case scenario, long-term tenants. If anyone doubts such assumptions, just visit a typical primary school classroom and then the secondary option. Primary schools abound with multiple exhibitions of student work, student language and even furniture that dares to suggest that education and learning can be simultaneously fun, colourful and yes, it can even be done collaboratively.
In stark contrast, the traditional secondary classroom suggests conformity, serious learning only and often significant displays of teacher artefacts. I have known a number of classrooms where every administrative document is clearly displayed, including the archaic teacher-chosen seating plan yet little thought or effort (or both) appears visible in the displaying of similar quantities of student work. We all know that students learn best where they are at their most relaxed, where they feel the most ownership, and where they feel they have personal and academic safety and acceptance. Yet how many classrooms in secondary education fairly reflect such needs of the students and to the students? It is my belief that if students feel dislocated, detached from the learning space, it only makes sense for them to similarly feel dislocated, detached from the learning and thus subsequently any academic growth.
Teachers must genuinely at the very least, share the learning space and give some ownership and thus engagement opportunities to their students. Failure to do so effectively means that the "classroom is my domain" believer is effectively teaching/transmitting to everyone but receiving is no-one. Students may be present physically in the class but it is arguable whether they are present at all in terms of any form of enjoyment, engagement and most significantly learning.
5. The disciplinarian
I love the irony present when a school expands the length of their periods in an effort to increase learning time, yet expects its Year 9 and Year 10 students to line up outside until every single student is waited into subservience, standing straightness and complete and utter silence. Now I'm not quite the global expert on prepping" students for modern learning undertakings but I still think I'm on pretty safe ground when I suggest that such archaic discipline expectations is more about the teacher emphasising pastoral over academic expectations and reinforcing who is in charge here! I'm not sure students' understanding both of these concepts are most likely to view the teacher as an educator and collaborator as soon as all parties enter the classroom.
As a student not interested in any form of military service, I disliked what I saw as the pointless exercise of such demands such as lining up outside a class and standing until instructed otherwise by a teacher. As a teacher, I have detested such expectations and aside from probably my first week or so of teaching, have never asked any students or classes (senior or junior) to line up and remain standing until I have given these infidels my consent.
For me, every minute of every learning opportunity is precious, exercises in discipline and conformity ummm slightly less so. This is not to say that discipline has no place in the classroom setting. Au contraire, it most certainly does but I l believe so in terms only of establishing academic expectations, and ensuring academic and personal safety. In my current classroom, the expected "discipline" is that regardless of my physcial presence or otherwise, students are to do four things every day 1) Log on to their laptops, 2) Log in to Chrome, Drive, and Google Classrooms 3) Start work on the instructions provided and 4) be nice people to their peers, and especially me! This visible "discipline" to me and my students suggests prioritisations of academic pursuits over pastoral conformity, of trust and collegiality over collective suppression, and of student engagement and learning above EVERYTHING else. The disciplinarian needs to remember that they are working in an educational institution, with students and not in a prison, and most certainly not in a military or life-and-death context.
In closing, my headline is maybe a little on the dramatic side but I still think there is considerable validity in terms of the concerns aforementioned. Teachers are in a position of considerable power, a position of considerable influence now and in terms of student futures. Such a position should be and must be viewed as potentially dangerous unless we view the students as equals, legitimate academic contributors, leaders and deciders. We certainly do not want to be waiting in line in the future, only to find out just how dangerous we were in the present. Stay safe out there everyone!