The generative power of teaching

I recently came across this great read by Courtney Martin on the reductive seduction of other people’s problems. In it she provides the provocation that at the heart of failed attempts at ‘doing good’ is the false perception that other people’s problems are easily solvable in comparison to our own. She urges those interested in pursuing a career that intervenes in the lives of others to take a generative approach by first acknowledging just how much they don’t know about the other and then ‘leaning in’ to the complexity of lived experience with a tremendous amount of patience and curiosity.

At TFA’s Initial Intensive we did a great deal of work on developing a coherent vision for ourselves as educators. Reading Martin’s blog post as Initial Intensive drew to a close helped me to put a lot of this work into context and recognise that the teaching profession is in fact powerfully generative.

Here are three reasons why:

  1. Teaching is not prescriptive; it is about empowering learners to confidently exercise their diverse talents and abilities. Teachers create spaces and build relationships so that learners can express themselves individually and feel supported to pursue their interests. Quite often those interests morph into passions, even life long endeavours that become professions, vocations or innovations.
  1. Teaching is not isolated; it is about creating understanding and shifting awareness to new possibilities. Teachers make the world accessible for learners by scaffolding understanding and demonstrating how knowledge can be applied to create impact. This becomes a bridge between the classroom and community for learners to walk across.
  1. Teaching is not finite; its outcomes transcend boundaries, cultures and time. Teachers present knowledge as discovery and encourage learners to develop a ‘growth mindset’ with a healthy sense of curiosity. From all corners of the world and throughout time, history makers are those who have inquired continuously and dared to experiment at the edges.

No one person in Cohort 2016 comes to teaching with an idea of how to solve educational inequity. But we do all have the passion, patience and curiosity to show up every day with empathy, listen deeply and build toward it each day at a time.