The biggest compliment I’ve ever received was from my fourth grade teacher. In a serious, conspiratorial tone, signalling that I should keep this information on the down-low, he told me that when he collected creative writing assignments from the class, he would always put my paper at the bottom of the pile. Why? So that he knew he would always have a really good piece of writing to look forward to as he worked his way through correcting the other papers.
Now, as an adult, I realize that this may have been more of a complimentary metaphor than an actual physical act of placing my brilliant work of juvenilia beneath his stack of papers, but either way, I was absolutely thrilled.
Through his praise, he confirmed that my natural inclination towards the written word was “a good thing” and I was given the encouragement I needed to continue honing my skills as a budding.
Human Connection At Its Core
That, right there, is why we need teachers, and will always need teachers. No matter how sophisticated technology and personalized learning platforms become, they can never replace the power of the basic human connection between teacher and student. My Fourth Grade teacher knew my personality well enough to trust that I would not parade among my classmates, proudly asserting that my work was superior to theirs, but rather quietly treasure the compliment as an assurance that my painstaking labour with paper and pencil was not in vain. This almost intuitive knowledge teachers develop of individual students and the nuances of their personalities is invaluable in truly effective teaching, and it’s something that technological tools can never replicate. It is especially important in the case of struggling students, for whom the belief that someone actually cares about their progress is even more vital.
Digital Innovation Driven By People
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not letting teachers off the hook when it comes to using technology. Quite the opposite. Digital innovation is a fundamental part of modern society, which will continue to mould both the personal and professional lives of our kids in ways we can’t even begin to imagine today. The classroom must reflect this shift and great responsibility rests on the shoulders of those at the helm. As someone observed at the Learning Through Technology Conference in Glasgow earlier this year, “Technology won’t replace teachers, but teachers who use technology will probably replace teachers who don’t.” But the use of technology is ultimately about making the fundamental work teachers do easier and more effective, not pushing them aside in favour of iPads. I believe children today should benefit from all the innovation in learning technology has to offer, but this should never be at the expense of a personal connection with their teacher. Technology can certainly empower teachers to help kids learn more effectively, but it can never, ever replace them.
How do you see the teacher-student relationship in todays society? Do you have a personal story to share? Tell me in the comments below.
By Deirdre Kilbride
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Image credits: I’m Smart Kent County Girls on the Run April 06, 20101 (Steven Depolo) / CC BY 2.0