We all know the cliché only too well. The more things change, the more they remain the same. Every now and then there’s a fresh wave of hope that sweeps through the education scene – primary, secondary, and tertiary – and makes us all feel that things are finally going to get set right. The news media goes to town with hope and critical reflection and there is a flurry of activity with workshops and seminars that aim to get school administrators, teachers, and sometimes even students, into this new mode of thinking. Occasionally establishments get around to following through on the promises made and put new systems in place. The initial energy sometimes is enough to make these changes part of a new culture. But more often than not, the forces resistant to change are stronger and force a rollback to keep everything the way it was.
This issue of Teacher Plus, coming as it does around Teachers’ Day, features reminiscences from teachers over the decades. We asked individuals who began their careers in each of the last five decades, and their responses indicate that not much has changed in the world of the teacher. Of course, some of the externalities have undergone quite a transformation – technology for instance. But others, such as the status of teachers and the degree of autonomy they (do not) enjoy, haven’t changed much. Despite this, however, the responses indicate that for many people teaching is central to their lives. Whether they came into it by choice or chance, they have stuck with it and made it meaningful.
We also invited a few schools to take over some of our pages for their teachers to share their ideas and experiences. In a sense, these articles represent the everyday stuff of a teacher’s life, the special and the humdrum, the lows and (mostly) the highs. Recognizing the importance of this routine, its value in building individuals, communities, and societies, is why we celebrate this day.
Examining these routines also allows us to discern, however slightly, that things do change. The widening public discourse surrounding education has had some impact both within and outside the school space. Those resistant forces do get worn down – albeit much too slowly – suggesting that classrooms are changing, in ways that are good for both teachers and learners.