Teaching craft and mystery at Bedales

Observing fellow teachers at work is one of the plum bits of this job – and the last 10 days have been full of it, as I have seen all our new teachers in action. Two venerable words always spring to mind when I see someone teach: craft and mystery. As a compulsive etymology geek I can’t resist a scamper through the heritage of these words: so craft, with its main meaning here as “the skills in carrying out one’s work” carries plenty of the “activity involving skill in making things by hand” and even a little nuance of “guile”. Mystery was the word used to describe a handicraft or trade, but then the modern use, as in mysterious, came to the fore, because the practices of these skills or trades were hidden from others. (Sorry about that, but couldn’t resist it..)  Back to the teacher’s craft or mystery and what I have seen in the classes I have observed: an exploration of the links between the religions of the Iroquois, Hindu and Genesis (Block 3 RS); inflation’s causes and its definition (6.1 Economics); different kinds of film and how to say whether you love or loathe them (Block 3 French); good and bad cholesterol and heart disease (6.1 Biology); and how to defeat your opponent in a one-to-one situation on the hockey field (Block 4 Sport). Watching good teaching and seeing and hearing students learn is always a tonic. However experienced you are as a teacher you always learn both from seeing others teach and from having someone feed back on your teaching. But however much you can analyse and itemize the techniques used – the pedagogies, if you want a fancy word – there is at the heart of all successful teaching an emotional transaction, the mystery (there we go) and even the cunning that lie at the heat of the teacher’s craft.  That’s often quite a primitive, visceral thing: so, do I, young human X, really feel that I want to listen and learn from you, older human Y. Well, now you mention it, yes…

One thought on “Teaching craft and mystery at Bedales

  1. “However experienced you are as a teacher you always learn both from seeing others teach and from having someone feed back on your teaching.” Yes, yes, yes! 🙂 To watch other teachers teach is quite an exhilarating experience. When I was interning and student teaching I was awed by the craft of the teachers I observed and who mentored me. I’m glad you used the word “craft”. Book knowledge, science and statistics certainly inform good teaching, but in the end we improve our technique through doing, repeating, tweaking and refining, often without thinking about it. Which is why it’s so hard to teach teaching.

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