“Sometimes you have to go halfway around the world to come full circle.” One of the great quotes from the acclaimed movie, Lost in Translation.
This accurately identifies the existing state of the Ministry of Education’s predicament in the EQAO chaos; public education has lost its way.
What has been lost? The true meaning and practice of the pedagogue!
Etymologically, ‘pedagogy’ is derived from the Greek paidagögía meaning literally, ‘to lead the child’ or ‘tend the child’. Within ancient Greek society, there was a distinct difference between the activities of pedagogues (paidagögus) and subject teachers (didáskalos). The pedagogues would sit with the child while they were instructed by the subject teachers. Their role, however, was not solely restricted to the schooling aspect and generally began at the age of 6 and remained in place until mid-adolescence. They accompanied and guided the children in the entirety of their daily lives. Today’s common usage of the word pedagogy often refers to our practice with children in schools and has been combined into one person – the classroom teacher.
There is more to education than curriculum, attaining prescribed learning outcomes and formalized accountability as currently imposed by the misguided attempts of the Ministry of Education. The education of a child should be concerned with the whole person, and their physical, mental, social and psychological development. This is a way of teaching and learning that is deeply dependent on the pedagogue themselves and their ability to reflect, make judgments and respond. Teachers must be encouraged and, indeed, expected to exercise qualities beyond the techniques of ‘teaching’.
Nel Noddings argues that caring relations are the foundation for pedagogical activity (by which she means teaching activity):
“First, as we listen to our students, we gain their trust and, in an on-going relation of care and trust, it is more likely that students will accept what we try to teach. They will not see our efforts as “interference” but, rather, as cooperative work proceeding from the integrity of the relationship. Second, as we engage our students in dialogue, we learn about their needs, working habits, interests, and talents. We gain important ideas from them about how to build our lessons and plan for their individual progress. Finally, as we acquire knowledge about our students’ needs and realize how much more than the standard curriculum is needed, we are inspired to increase our own competence.”
James Britton, a notable British psycholinguist, connotes this as teacher learning alongside the child.
“In summary, pedagogy is the art of teaching – the loving, caring, responsive, creative, intuitive personal relationship role that is interwoven with the craft and science of teaching.”
Lost in the translation from educating and developing the whole child to intransigent public accountability is our children’s future. Perhaps now that the Ministry of Education has gone halfway around the world of accountability, it will discover that developing the whole child is the full circle answer to accountability.