Engineering Winter Metaphors: A Chinese perspective?
Yesterday we had our Dam House Winter Event about metaphors, and today we have the first of our facilitators posting…
I was invited to facilitate at the recent Teaching Commons Event on Metaphors in Learning and Teaching. In my particular group we had several Chinese teachers who had some interesting metaphors which reflected the ideology of teaching and learning in their country. The two which were mentioned in particular were the teacher as gardener and the teacher as ‘engineer to the soul’.
The ‘engineer to the soul’ was explained to us as a responsibility that the teacher has to ensure ‘good citizens’, to teach people morals, how to fit in, to be an agent of socialisation, I suppose. This accounted for the very respected position and status of teachers in China. What a heavy responsibility though - the implication being that if teachers failed, society would suffer!
This inclination to look to teachers to provide the ‘good citizens’ of the future is alive and well in the UK as well. The recent introduction of Citizenship lessons in secondary schools has been a somewhat controversial move amongst the teaching profession. This is because teachers don’t have the respect and status they would have in China but are expected to have the same responsibility for the state of society! There have even been moves to control teachers’ behaviour outside the classroom with the General Teaching Council for England (GTCE) trying to set a behaviour code.
“GTCE chief executive Keith Bartley said the code set out to teachers that they had to consider their place in society.”
Whilst at Higher Education level, no-one has suggested this for lecturers or academics, there have been suggestions that they should monitor student behaviour, particularly political extremism. Yet again, educators as arbiters of morals and behaviour.
So, if Chinese ‘teachers’ and academics have the role of ‘engineers of the soul’ what is the role of teachers in British society? Sheep-herders? Police officers? Maybe we shouldn’t be too pessimistic about our influence in society though - it may not be an automatic recognition of status but students still have the capacity to be influenced and engaged by their teachers, but nowadays we have to earn that right, as individuals worthy of respect. Engagement, passion for your subject and a genuine concern for the student’s well-being seem to be positive ways of gaining this respect, in my experience.
Noreen Dunnett, LeTS