Will any female readers please indulge me a little?
When will I, will I be famous? I can’t answer, I can’t answer that... so sang Bros, in 1987, and, living in a house with two teenage daughters singing along, the tune and the words stuck.
Apprenticeship is seen, in France, as an equivalent route to a successful life, in a system that does cream off particular students into different universities. The artisan is seen as someone of value, in part because the public know that they have been fully trained, know the job and are skilful. Most people will not be famous, but they will get satisfaction from a job well done.
The same cannot be said of the UK, where it can appear that anyone with a bit of DIY background can set themselves up as a jobbing builder. There have been stories of “cowboy builders” during the whole of my life.
Among other things:-
- I can play the guitar; ok, I can strum about ten chords and use this to accompany simple children’s songs.
- I can play the bodhran, the Irish drum and did so in barn dance and demonstration dance group bands, as well as a summer in France, when our ad hoc group reached the finals of the “Truffe de Perigeux”.
- I started as a teacher with an environmental science background, did a post grad certificate to deepen my understanding then a few years later a post grad diploma in Language and Reading development.
- I played a wide range of sports; some to District and County Schools level.
- I enjoy painting and photography. I love being outdoors, exploring the natural world, gardening and doing conservation activities. I can coppice and pollard trees. I can identify a range of trees, flowers, insects and birds.
- I love DIY; there is a special feeling about seeing a project through to successful completion.
- My own life has had more than it’s fair share of trials and tribulations, so I can support pastorally.
- I know some stuff and can use this to help children to learn, by creating situations within which they can learn and I can teach, coach and support as needed.
There are side issues to the route to mastery that worry me. A recent article headline that passed by on my Twitter timeline suggested that differentiation was dead, as mastery was the new buzz word. I’d argue that, as every learner is an individual, any teacher needs to know their learners well, in order to fine tune the necessary support and guidance that enables them to understand and to make progress, with any requisite practice en route. When the learner can see the journey, the point of practice and can enjoy the fruits of their labours, then they can begin to be autonomous learners.
And maybe that would be my preferred word, independent or autonomous, rather than mastery; the ability to use the known in practice, identifying the point where there is a need to know something else and to have the skills to address the shortfall in skill. These skills could be in collaborative endeavour, learning from another, book or internet research, or simply asking someone with the skill to teach it. Apart from anything else, these terms are gender neutral.
With, hopefully, time available to hone some of the hobby skills and interests, I will, when work stops, take lessons, especially in painting and in music. I will learn from people who have spent a greater part of their lives honing a particular aspect of skill, whether watercolour, acrylics or oils, or possibly a mis-spent youth playing an instrument. I will, happily, become a learner again. There may be areas where any expertise that I have might be of use to another; that will be happily shared.
To my mind, mastery or misstery or mrstery, whatever the title, should not be applied in any form in a school learning environment, especially if it applies to a small group of children, without, yet, clear criteria.
If a child can confidently, competently and independently use and apply learned knowledge and skills in a range of novel situations, appropriate to their age, this can be acknowledged, but a “title” might just be the point where they stop making an effort, as they might think that they know it all. All should be challenged and enabled to aim high, accept the need for effort and to be prepared to learn from each other; they, and we, should acknowledge that we are all learners.
A master learner is not a know-all. They recognise their limitations and also the skills of others which are available to be learned. I can, but I could do this even better...