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I should teach it, they should learn it, case closed

I never grow tired of watching the TED talk by Rita Pierson ‘Every Kid Needs a Champion’. It is both inspiring and compelling – it capture the essence of why so many of us want to work with our students.

When I first showed this video in a workshop that I was leading, it revealed so much about those in the room and the mindset of those who we find challenging to work with in our schools. About 1 minute and 35 seconds into the talk, Pierson reflects on a conversation with a former colleague who mentions: “They don’t pay me to like the kids. They pay me to teach a lesson. I should teach it, they should learn it, case closed.”

When scanning the room at this moment, I was amazed to see that there were heads nodding, in what I assumed as agreement. One participant remarked, “Amen to that” while another commented ‘That’s how it should be.” I was really taken aback by this, though obviously I could not calculate the number of teachers in agreement and I would not necessarily wish to assume all nodding heads were in support of Pierson’s former colleague.

What did make me chuckle though was a few seconds later when Pierson notes what she said in reply. “You know, kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” Scanning the room again, there was a look of embarrassment on some of the same faces that were nodding moments beforehand.

This moment, as scary as it was, presented a reality for us as education leaders. We need to challenge those who believe teaching and learning is about them – the teacher. A teacher first attitude gets us nowhere in schools and our students know it best.

Healthy school cultures are built upon what is best for students, first and foremost, and are not just one way traffic views of educators. Thriving schools are partnerships, between students, teachers, parents and the wider community, where it is recognised that everyone can make a valuable contribution to the learning process so that it can be significant, relevant and challenging, with students wanting to come to school for each of these reasons. The students want to come to our classes, not because our class is easy, not because we’re friendly but because we care that they are interested participants in their learning and how they can contribute to society and meaningfully engaged citizens.

We teach because we can make a difference and our students want us to be that change that will positively impact on their lives. Let’s challenge those among us who may not see it the same way – our kids deserve better.

Richard Bruford View All

Richard is currently Secondary School Principal of Suzhou Singapore International School, one of China's leading international schools. He leads workshops across the Asia-Pacific region for the International Baccalaureate in the areas of pedagogical leadership and approaches to teaching and learning. Richard consults with schools on the topics of school improvement and effective implementation and use of technology.

With a background in public and independent school education in the UK and Australia, Richard is enjoying his international school adventure in China. He is passionate about developing and supporting educational leaders, as it is essential to improving all schools.

Richard is a proud family man and feels lucky to be married to Kim and father of their son Austin.

In his spare time Richard enjoys to swim, bike and run and is a now retired football player and coach (with occasional guest appearances)

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