Monday, March 14, 2011

Light my fire

Flames by wwarby, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  wwarby 

There are two radio programs that make Sunday mornings so pleasant - one features baroque and earlier music and the other features world music. I'm not an authority on either form but I listen every week, either live or later on the net. The reason I listen so regularly is largely due to the presenters. They both have a burning interest in the music they present and communicate that enthusiasm in an infectious manner. The same program with a lesser presenter would probably not have grabbed my attention.

It's much the same with education. At school I was good at maths and physics but the subject that I went on to study at university was English. That choice was not because I sat and objectively weighed up my future career options and made a rational choice. It was simply because English was fun and my teacher had encouraged my efforts at creative writing. I suspect many career choices have been inspired by one good teacher who has succeeded in lighting a fire.

There's a lot of debate about school today, mostly focusing on standards, quality criteria, learning outcomes and examination. It all seems so scientific and objective but I feel we're missing the most important quality criterion of all - enthusiasm. If a teacher can communicate enthusiasm and curiosity for the subject and inspire the students then that quality is often worth as much if not more than carefully planned lessons and well-formulated learning outcomes. Sheer infectious enthusiasm can compensate for less than perfect planning and slightly chaotic organisation and the positive effect of human energy on students' success rates should not be underestimated.

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