Never mind the learning, heres the policy

RESOURCES may bring people to to start line, but won’t motivate them to take part in what they often perceive to be a marathon. Most teachers consider themselves busy and time poor. They are already providing many hours free to deal with expanding workplace demands. Teaching is a complex juggling act between academic, discipline learning and activities leading to student engagement, support and community. Teacher, friend, mentor, fan, supporter, bus driver, coach etc., Parents want academic success, but they increasingly want their children to be happy, active and experience diversity though social action and interaction. We want it all, and no one wants to pay for any of it.

Education is organised by the time-table, ruling supreme over formal subjects, spaces, students and staff. Extra-curricular is now used to describe learning un-accommodated and informal. From and early age a we learned to be organised by it. But the factories are gone along with bells, sirens and production line management.

A ‘student free day’ is often more about ensuring central-policy has been issued to teachers than learning, and even then it is organised for us. We however have been transformed by the informal immediacy and abundance of information today. We are less interested in structures where information is scarce and requires time to access at the discretion of a few. Banks, shops, telecommunications, politicians have all learned that we don’t want to wait, to queue up, to be offered a limited choice – because we are quite capable of seeking alternatives.

When we talk about professional development of teachers we need to explicit about what is being asked of them. Extra-curricula and informal learning has led to most teachers working one day a week unpaid. It appears the digital education revolution is based on the notion that teachers will now move into a 7th day – unpaid. There is an epic difference between how we approach formal and informal professional development – there is stagnation in one and over-reliance in the other. Equiry is still considered ‘best’ for informal problem based learning where as didactic/rote/exam learning better for formal assessment (and reporting).

It is often these extra-curricula activities that drive students and teachers to explore their passions and strengths. We have less power in formal learning or formal structures, and so are less interested in them. Extra curricula activities become significant differentiators between qualifications and attaining something more. Film, computer, drama, debating, band, radio and sports ‘clubs’ have been the informal motivators of many people’s career paths. Many parents are as interested in these as they are in formal classrooms. Choice is a driver of change – right now there are few alternatives to formal public education, but that is not to say there are none.