Why teaching is terrible…

… and why we do it anyway.

Is the subtitle of a knockout book on what teaching is actually, really like. If you have children, if you plan to teach them, or are the survivor of thirty years of teaching, or are simply baffled by children, READ THIS BOOK (if you come from the UK you might want to check out the ages of the different grades in the US).DSCN8791 - Version 2 Searching for Malumba is written in intermittent diary format running from 2000 to 2015. Each entry comes hot, often scorchingly so, off the keyboard and varies from hilarious to heart-breaking. You read this with your mouth hanging open in shock about where these kids are coming from and what kind of homes they go back to. You also read it with sympathetic fury at the authorities wilful misunderstanding about testing, teacher pay and worst of all the nature of children themselves. In contrast, you also read with delight and outright laughter about children and teacher’s successes and gaffes.

Children en masse scare me and so, although I have worked with them in schools, six at a time is my maximum.* I made things easy by doing workshops which the kids thought were games (and even included some board games). I also tested kids for my PhD thesis (and discovered how some relished, and some were terrified of, tests). All children need sensitive, perceptive, firm, fair, patient and compassionate handling and that’s before you can actually teach them anything. When you get to teaching bit, you need another whole set of skills… I won’t even start on these, because I know I lack them.

I am in total awe of someone who can handle 30 plus children at any one time, many with built in challenges – physical, mental and environmental AND succeed in imparting information to them. After following Luther Siler’s blog Infinitefreetime.com for at least a couple of years, I know him as a superbly entertaining, passionate communicator. He has principles I agree with, he writes with insight and empathy about the different experiences of being male and female, and he has an astonishing breadth of education and experience. Oh, and he writes and publishes science fiction too.

Teachers are secular saints. I repeat, READ THIS BOOK, you will laugh and gnash your teeth, but you will enjoy it.

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* Well, with one exception. I was asked to do something with the kids in the local middle school (ages 8 to 10) on dinosaurs for National Reading Week – even though, back then, I was a sculptor. The local museum lent me a couple of real dinosaur bones and the local hospital gave the school many packets of out-of-date plaster bandages. Over the course of a week most of the kids in the school passed through my makeshift workshop in their dining area and produced this… Linton Heights dinosaur 1991It was scary and exhilarating. Was I in control or teaching anything? Not really. I acted more as a circus ringmaster with the entire menagerie, clowns and animals together in the ring. We may have broken several health and safety rules, we made a godalmighty mess, but every child impressed themselves by their achievement. (The big round lump is a dinosaur egg about to hatch).