Practical Creativity and Visible Breakthroughs of Teachers
Since the turn of the century, Chinese society has continued to be in a stage of rapid modernization. Given quite a marked contrast between material and spirit, plus a fast growing floating population as well as the interaction of teachers, students and parents being only children, facing plenty of conflicts teachers are very liable to become a new vulnerable group in a powerful culture of authority and under its administrative systems and mechanisms. Therefore, I have proposed that the presence of various negative emotions of teachers be not ignored and evaded: They feel powerless facing the diversity of students; many of them feel guilty under the pressure of preparing students for examinations; they wish to display healthy ideas of education and teaching of individuality, but due to squeezed personal space for creativity, often get frustrated. Because human emotions cannot be instructed and are subject to living circumstances of individuals, we propose truly giving importance to the emotional dimension of teacher education. This includes the following four aspects. Firstly, pay attention to positive and negative emotions of teachers, and to negative emotions in particular, find out their causes and take measures to stop them from lasting long. Secondly, cherish those emotional varieties of positive value in life. The reason why the term “variety” is used here, is that in China, while teachers are always required to have moral sentiments, moral sentiments—which rely not mainly on complying outwardly with professional ethics—are developed in particular professional environments, and the accumulation of those positive emotions in everyday life is just the necessary foundation and emotional mechanism for moral sentiments. Thirdly, learn to express feelings, because only their externalization can sharpen emotional competence for communication with others. Fourthly, because emotions cannot be instructed and are subject to living circumstances of individuals, it is necessary to give importance to fostering cultural micro-environments that helps individuals to grow stable and positive emotions. For teacher education in the future, curriculum for pre-service education need be improved in terms of the emotional dimension of teacher development, so as to help teachers have a basic knowledge of the characters and mechanisms of emotional development of children, understand the relationship between their emotional activity and children’s active learning, values identity, and formation of morality and personality, and foster their desire and ability to have positive emotional communication with students. Such curriculum is by no means built by adding so called self-contained disciplines of systematic knowledge, but relies mainly on the adoption of experience- and action-oriented modes of learning.
For active teachers, both teacher education policy and practice should tilt more towards considering how to support teacher growth, and shift from raising requirements in a one-way, overall manner on teachers to paying more attention to how to create an environment in support of their growth from the angles of their desire and motivation for personal development. We have found that some aspi- rational schools have succeeded because their headmasters are determined and patient to foster a cultural environment. For example, after becoming aware that something wrong with his school’s cultural atmosphere and teachers were less motivated to teach, the headmaster of a primary school organized all teachers to rehearse Lao She’s play Teahouse, to be directed by the teachers themselves. Because the school had very few male teachers, the male workers of the school canteen as well as male security guards played roles in the play, including female teachers disguised as men. Through hard rehearsals, their performance was very successfully and even staged in theaters. Some headmasters took the lead to rehearsal of plays that students or teachers wrote, and encouraged teachers to practice dance and calligraphy, with a belief that traditional Chinese calligraphy and classics can help teachers mentally settle down the best. Of course, teacher education also needs to help teachers gain skills to examine and regulate their emotions and feelings. Now, many schools adopt the teaching method of micro narrative, and of course, not all stories told are of certain value. Helping teachers to possess techniques of narrative and storytelling and to learn self-examination is right the focus of collaboration between teacher education researchers and primary and secondary school teachers.
Finally, an important part of China’s curriculum reform at present is to encourage schools to design school-based curriculum themselves, including designing and integrating curriculum as appropriate under the condition of meeting the country’s curriculum requirements. Some headmaster friends told me that many teachers are less energetic because their personal space of creativity is too small to feel a sense of self-worth and achievement. But the role of headmasters is to explore mechanisms by which to inspire and motivate teachers.
As shown in the pictures, some schools dismissed former teaching and research groups, moved teachers’ desks into classrooms, where teachers would work. In the classroom there are computers, toys, etc. which children can use anytime; all over the classroom floor is spread soft plastic mats on which children can play and rest; the size of classes has been reduced to only more than twenty students each; in the classroom are five groups of small desks, each of which can be moved freely; the walls inside the classroom are learning resource zones for children, on which children can write and draw randomly and teachers can display their resources; outside the classroom are put several chairs on which children can sit and rest at class breaks, as well as some desks on which are put chess sets, picture books, toys, etc. that children can use anytime. The teachers were quite distressed in the first month about this big spatial adjustment, because formerly they communicated mainly with one another after classes but now they must stay with the children to find appropriate methods of teaching for satisfying student needs and connecting with students. Moreover, at Beijing Academy, where we are to visit this afternoon, a portion of students have been allowed to not study Chinese language and literature, mathematics and English, along with some other big reform measures.
In conclusion, the creativity that grass-roots practice has displayed is working to boost personal development of teachers and show possible and visible breakthroughs.
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