Tuesday, August 23, 2005

What is teaching?

One night, many years ago, I asked my children round the dinner table what they thought teaching was. We discussed and rejected lots of ideas similar to those I mused about in yesterdays post. Then my daughter, at the time in Year 9, quoting an unknown source, said: "Teaching is lighting a fire inside someone." I have not been at a loss since then. My dream is to motivate and engage students to the extent that they will no longer be dependent on a "teacher". They will know and value the fact that they are teaching themselves. This is the experience I want to play a part in providing for the students I am responsible for.

I received permission from L. to quote her reflection, "How well does any child know their parent", on her interview with her mother, which was mentioned yesterday. (The activity is from the VATE study guide Inside Stories on the novel, written by Rima Perkovic). Here is L.'s reflection:

It is my firm belief that we know our parents to the extent that we want to. After completing this exercise, I've learnt things not only about my mum, but also about myself. The fact that stood out most significantly was that I really don't know that much about the most important person in my life and that I hadn't bothered to take a direct interest in the many events that had shaped her life.

Many children are so absorbed in what's going on with themselves that they fail to engage with their parents' lives. They forget about the past and only know the present. What they see of their parents is usually how they perceive them. I had never asked my mum about what she had wanted to be when growing up and just assumed that being an accountant was what she wanted. Life is full of stories both joyous and saddening, and should be shared with loved ones to strengthen relationships. It is through this that people learn the most about others and how they cope with the ups and downs. But sadly it is impossible to know everything because our hectic life doesn't allow us to sit down and simply talk for hours on end. But still, it's always enlightening to listen and gain knowledge from the more experienced people.

For the children, especially those who are in their teens, parents are seen as providers and are used when needed. Special care and thought is rarely given to what makes them who they are. We know the basics about them, but when it comes to the small, seemingly frivolous details, we find we really have no idea. For instance, someone brought up in a poor environment such as my mum, would probably cherish what they have, not what they want.

There are so many things I would love to know about my mum and her family, but the reality is, that it would take a lifetime to hear. But in the end the wonderful stories are worth asking about, and listening to, because they are the pieces of the puzzle to not only who are your parents are, but who you are.

Thank you L. for allowing this to be shared.


  1. My advise to L. and anyone who feels it will take a lifetime to hear their parents' stories should jump quickly, because you never know what the future holds. I would love to take the time to hear my mother's stories, but cancer took her from me.... so if you are lucky enough to realize the value of hearing their stories, AND your loved ones are still with you...GO FOR IT! NOW!

    Wonderful post, Jo.

  2. Julie Morsillo9:43 pm

    Very impressive Jo! I especially like that line "Teaching is lighting a fire inside someone." As usual you have so much give! I still remember that you were the one to teach me about feminism all those years ago! BTW, I have just submitted my PhD on "Social Action by Youth: Creating a Sense of Community" and I am teaching community development at Victoria University. Your passion back in the '80s helped set me on the education path. Thanks.

  3. Found out the source of the quote. It is by W.B. Yeats and goes: "Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire."
    I'm wrapped.