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The Ever-changing Landscape of Teaching…and Bob Dylan

I don’t know much about Bob Dylan. And with that, I’ve probably lost a few readers already. For those still here, let me explain…

At time of writing, I’ve just tested positive for Covid-19. I’ve managed to dodge it for the best part of two and half years so I consider myself both fortunate and somewhat lucky. When my wife and youngest daughter contracted it at the beginning of the Easter holidays, I was sure I would be the next one to get the double lines. But I didn’t. And I still can’t figure out how that happened because in a household of 6, I just assumed it would pass down the line! These are the times we live in.

Fast forward to the next morning and my thoughts switch to work and more importantly how I’m going to connect with the kids in my class who I’ve already lost lessons due to the Public Holidays and NAPLAN commitments and the general fast pace of modern school life (or life in general these days). There is always something on. Information to process. Jobs to be done. Homework to complete. Sporting events to get to. The juggling act in the circus of life.

50 years ago (and I’m kind of stabbing in the dark here because I wasn’t alive), the lifeblood of a school – and by that I mean the teachers – would have filing cabinets full of blackline masters that they’d haul out in the case of an emergency. And by emergency, I’m referring to the situation whereby they can’t be at school to teach for whatever reason.

You see it’s an innate feeling of guilt that teachers experience not being able to be physically in the classroom with your students. The research is clear that relationship building is the foundation in which positive learning environments are created and formed. When you can’t be there, it is different. Not impossible, just different. The sense of connection is changing.

This brings me back to Bob Dylan. In 1964 he penned a song titled The Times They Are a-Changin’ from the album of the same name. While most people refer to the song as a protest to what was going on in the world at the time, Dylan himself refuted the interpretation saying “…I didn’t mean “The Times They Are a-Changin’” as a statement …It’s a feeling.” Kind of like the feeling I alluded to before.

Come gather ‘round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
And you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

If there is one occupation that could be defined as “a-Changin” in recent times, it would be Teaching. Work intensification is real. The constant shifting of the goal posts is real. As we spend more time in an online environment, teachers are (rightly or wrongly) more and more accessible and this makes it hard to switch off as the once somewhat clear line-in-the-sand becomes blurred.

Behind the scenes at ATC, the life-blood I referred to before is once again being asked to roll up their sleeves as we shift our teaching to accommodate the needs of our students. Over the next weeks and months, many staff will be dipping their toes into unfamiliar territory as we explore the technology that our students are familiar with as the much-publicized Digital Natives.

You remember those guys. The ones that Sree Sreenivasan refers to in his 2014 TED-X talk as “the ones born into a hyper-connected world believing everything should be on demand…in real time”.

In this fast-paced world of dopamine-fuelled “likes”, sometimes we (as teachers) and, more importantly, we (as human beings) forget to wait, take a breath and slow down. I’m not proclaiming to be an expert on the topic, nor am I some kind of pseudo Psychologist, but there has to be some merit in the concept of delayed gratification, right? Weren’t we always told, “good things come to those that wait”? I’ll let you think about that for a while…

And herein lies the perpetual struggle and ever-present reality that many in the education sphere face. Keeping up with what, at times, seems like constant change while managing the human side to it all. The students at ATC are blessed to have such resilient, dedicated and selfless teachers walking the learning journey with them. As teachers, we often ask our kids to take risks in the classroom. Try things. Make mistakes in a safe environment. Step outside their comfort zone. In 2022, we continue to ask our teachers to practice what we preach.

As the Covid brain fog sets in for the day, this thought is very clear: Teachers are awesome. As we tread carefully together through this next phase of our journey my hope is that our awesome teachers wait, take a breath and slow down. And even though The Times They Are a-Changin’, we are better when we support each other. We are better when we do it together.

Paddy Behan
eLearning Coordinator