Education, and my star learner-teacher-educator-discoverer

Inspired by Sidey’s weekly theme: Education

Oh Oh Oh … I never meant to be a teacher… I was aiming for the stars… (astronomy maybe) … hit the roof inside when my first university professor suggested ‘teaching’ was a good job for a (pregnant) girl graduate… but what a lot of fun I had, still have, and I did end up calling myself an ‘educator’ and incidentally discovered that for me having children/working with children/ watching others with their children would become a life long joy I had not known could exist.

Do I know what ‘education’ means? With a woman’s ‘educator’ career behind me? [I have taught something at nearly every age and stage you can think of.] No, I don’t know, not really, have not heard a good definition except for going back to Latin and saying it means Lead Out, but I have to say that Romans, Coliseum, Lions, Crucifixion, and lots more leave a lot to be desired in terms of thinking about where education might lead have been useful in those days. It depends on where, when, and what might be needed.

Who (who is learning, never mind if anyone is teaching. Who is this education for? is worth asking)

Where (formal, informal, home, school, college, workplace, institution, life)

What (facts, topics, subjects, skills, attitudes, morals, you tell me)

Why (useful, pleasure, vocational, academic, professional, creative, other)

How … ah ha … that’s what most of the fuss is about … and goes with the ‘who’ question

told by a teacher who of course already knows it – uh uh well David Attenborough on animals and nature does that quite well – so did my star – see below

told by a teacher when someone else* has told the teacher what should be taught

not told… discovered… but what if the stuff already known is not around for discovery

or, what if there is something new, subversive, OMG different, around …

* if education was good to us, we think what we got must be the right kind/if it wasn’t so hot, then it’s either “never did me any harm” or “best kind of learning is school of life innit?”


Sorry sorry get a bit carried away sometimes….

[These cartoons (and many more) are from Tony Beesley and have been on/in my computer files for a long time but I cannot find any reference to him now, except the name. Thanks Tony]

Do I have a star teacher? Or teacher type? (Learn by listening, learn by doing, learn by discovery, learn by discussion, learn teamwork, learn independently, … aaagh aaagh aaagh…)

My Star: Michael Faraday, learner teacher educator discoverer…

Michael Faraday, detail from lithograph by Alexander Blaikley, Christmas Lecture

Michael Faraday, incredibly wonderful discoverer in science, was the person who began the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures in 1825 – yes 1825.

He also gave many many Royal Institution lectures for science education and insisted that all lectures there should never ever last more than one hour, and have as many visual aids/demonstrations as possible. All without film, video, power point and internet, and if he had not done all the wonderful work he did it is possible we would not yet have any of that stuff. He often had to make his own equipment.

Never mind the different techniques now available –

1. Are educational principles the same now as they were then – we just have different means for demonstration and communication?

2. Are educational principles the same for all disciplines? [learn a foreign language, drive a car, understand economics, play the piano… ]

Faraday was a scientist, of his time. One of the the most unusual things about that was that he did not come from the upper, educated, leisured classes. He was the son of a blacksmith. His joy in science and wish to share it is still well served by the Royal Institution where he worked for so many years. And, early RI lectures on Education can now be read online.

One of these is the Faraday Lecture on Mental Education, given in 1854 to a distinguished audience. His main point:

Education is of the Self

I take courage…to speak boldly that which is upon my mind.  I feared that it might be unpleasant to some of my audience… (p. 463)

Among those points of self-education…. there is one…. difficult to deal with, because it involves an internal conflict and equally touches our vanity and our ease.  It consists in the tendency to deceive ourselves regarding all we wish for, and the necessity of resistance  to these desires… (p. 475)

This education has for its first and last step humility.  It can commence only because of a conviction of deficiency; and if we are not disheartened under the growing revelations which it will make, that conviction will become stronger unto the end…  (p. 485)

Such self-schooling must continue to the end of life to supply an experience of deficiency rather than of attainment, still there is abundant stimulus to excite any man to perseverance.  What he has lost are things imaginary, not real; what he gains are riches before unknown to him, yet invaluable… (p.485)

The deficiency is known hypothetically, but I doubt if in reality; the individual acknowledges the state in respect of others, but is unconscious of it in regard to himself.  (p.489)

…Because the education is internal, it is not the less needful; nor is it more the duty of a man that he should cause his child to be taught than that he should teach himself…

It is victorian, it does not say much about curriculum, it does not say much about schools or other institutions. I think it is amazing. Like modern notions in therapy and personal development, like the discoveries being made in neuroscience, he says OBSERVE YOURSELF, see yourself as others see you and stop looking at others as if they are the faulty ones, learn to feel, think, self-correct, assess … gain riches before unknown.

Like David Attenborough, Faraday the scientist, and all the other great educators, the education offered is

just an invitation

hey – I enjoy this stuff – come join me – how about you?

this is the kind of education which will indeed change the world – riches unknown

My grandsons went back to school yesterday, in Shanghai, my grand-daughters today, in Block Island. Half a world apart, I hope they are invited and I hope they take up the invitations they receive.

Getting the backpack ready
teamwork – computer literacy – Level ?? Ben-Ten

10 thoughts on “Education, and my star learner-teacher-educator-discoverer

  1. I have to read this a few more times. There is so much here, I don’t want to miss a single bit.

    I guess growing up (some argue that am still doing so and I agree) those who taught me and who still I feel their presence, were those who some how held my attention. I wonder if they knew what they were doing or is good teaching in part instinctual rather than intellectual?


    1. Thanks for such a thoughtful response. I sometimes boil over I have so much to say and so much regret that well meaning people make such a mess of lots of education… never mind the totally selfish and not so well meaning. Good truthful education is beyond price, though there would be no way of saying where it would go, I believe it would be in a good direction. There is a lot of it out there, just …I am off again…


      1. You obliviously were a true-to-life educator….I’d listen to you, as you caught and held my attention -interesting how you break things down without conclusions -clever!.


  2. I was inner city 11th grade history teacher here in Miami for 34 years. There are several things common to teaching almost anything. Individualize i.e. let the student learn at his level and ability and push but not to the frustration level. Improved reading skills are the key to all things. I always tried to let students know that the reason I am here is to put them in a position wherein they don’t need me any more. Speaking of star teacher, have you gotten your star teacher card at Office Depot ? Big % savings !


    1. Interesting to hear about your experience – you should meet my sister who was also a teacher and agrees reading reading need to get them enjoying reading so they just do it forever


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