Redesigning the teacher: an über-teacher in the making?
At the national Creative Partnerships conference in November 2006, a student film, System Upgrade, opened the conference in which three children are shown to visit various classrooms and encounter various clichés of ‘old school’ such as a teacher wearing a mortar board and threatening a cane and classrooms composed of desks in rows.
The children retreat to a basement and switch on a computer which provides various questions relating to what their ideal school might look like. In this scenario, the role of the teacher in elucidating children’s’ desires and needs is replaced by a computer. The young people are offered various pieces of advice by the computer on how to design space for learning (e.g. ‘the use of music is an aid to learning’) and how to think about ‘resources’ which could be used in many areas of the curriculum.
The computer asks them ‘who would you like to be taught by?’ and a comic sequence ensues which shows a prospective teacher being advertised for a teaching job by playing out various roles (multitalented sportsman, comic, dancer, musician). They all agree, computer and humans, that it would be useful to other skills to come into schools to show different perspectives, offer new approaches to learning and provide a range of stimulating educational opportunities.
Teaching will never go back to chalk and talk was a commonly heard aphorism during that conference, and indeed, during the research for this project, the implication being that teachers may now be able to address many more different learning styles in the classroom due to the extra skills they have developed by working with artists was often encountered. As artist-catalysed, über-teacher they are expected to deal with every need, enquiry, learning style, attitude and behaviour. But is this the only scenario that teachers are faced with in their relationships with artists? Might other scenarios exist in which teachers are able to resist and subvert the system upgrade which seems to flourishing within contemporary school cultures?
This paper refers to the work of the Creative School Change Project, managed by the Universities of Nottingham and Keele between 2006 and 2008.The project aimed to explore how schools have understood and mobilized Creative Partnerships (CP) to construct school change of various kinds. To do so it takes account of the relationship between schools, CP regions and national CP policy, and, centrally, looks at the processes through which CP has become embedded, in a range of schools. The research team consisted of Pat Thomson, Christine Hall, Ken Jones, Naksika Alexiadou, Susan Jones, Jane McGregor, Lisa Russell, Ethel Sanders and the author.
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