The Good Life of Teaching: An Ethics of Professional Practice

By Chris Higgins | Go to book overview

8
Teaching as Experience:
Toward a
Hermeneutics of Teaching and Teacher
Education

These recruits who face teaching as a life work are ready to learn to teach,
and they are ready, though they know it not, to be formed by teaching. When
teaching has formed them, what shape will it give them? Their daily work will
write upon them; what will it write? (Waller, 1932, p. 380).

The general topic of this volume is education on its intellectual side. One
main idea runs through the various chapters, and is illustrated in them from
many points of view. It can be stated briefly thus: The students are alive,
and the purpose of education is to stimulate and guide their self-
development. It follows as a corollary from this premiss, that the teachers
also should be alive with living thoughts. The whole book is a protest
against dead knowledge, that is to say, against inert ideas (Whitehead, 1967
[1927], p. v).

Without the liberally educated man, as witness and seal of what he is,
education will become more and more a mug’s game, a trade school, a
vulgar racket for privileged illiterates. Professionalism, scrappy or
fastidious, will not do (Arrowsmith, 1971, p. 14).


TEACHING AS VOCATIONAL ENVIRONMENT

In Chapter 4, we followed John Dewey’s attempt to rescue the concept of vocation from its distorting contrast with liberal education. Vocations, we concluded, are catalysts in the shaping of ‘effective worlds’, and the study of vocations is the study of the conditions of growth.1 From this, Dewey draws an important implication for teachers. Vocations are not principally an end of education but a key means. To facilitate learning one must understand the student’s environment which requires, in turn, understanding the continuouspurposive activities by which a given student activates his or her surroundings. Teachers must become, as Dewey once memorably put it, students of ‘soul action’ (Dewey, 1974 [1904], p. 319). While this is a key pedagogical insight, it is also somewhat surprising that this is the implication

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