“Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context – a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan.”
The purpose of peace education is to arrive at true peace, which can be found at the intersection of inner peace, societal peace and environmental peace. As a model, peace education provides a holistic approach to education and encourages the designer of curricular to consider systems thinking when creating a learning journey.
The majority of teachers today in England would be incapable of delivering peace education effectively. Not because they’re unable to, but because teacher training and selection focuses on developing particular competencies and undervalues other important areas of broader personal development by omitting them from the teacher standards.
I.T.T is oppressive and dehumanising. At least, it was when I underwent it in 2009/10. It was a shock to the system when experienced, but hardly surprising when we understand the purpose of education is to pacify, rather than liberate – to condition conformity rather than encourage student challenge and autonomy. As I write those words I know many will feel indignantly towards them, because there are a lot of teachers who do care, who make a positive impacts on pupils’ lives and probably will be remembered fondly for doing just that.
My argument isn’t pitched at the individual level, but rather is an attempt to address the limited and narrow brackets of judgement which define success within the current system. The education system fails to recognise and nurture one’s individuality and instead strives to achieve educational excellence by defining certain criteria and ‘raising standards’. The only focus on individualised learning, as far as I’m aware, is through differentiation and using pupil data to inform planning.
Teacher training readies a trainee for life in the trenches – how to write a scheme of work, plan lessons, various behaviour management techniques, how to use IT and tech in the classroom etc. But absent from the areas of focus are the development and demonstration of compassion, empathy and kindness, how to become an effective listener (beyond using effective questioning techniques such as ‘pose, pause, pounce, bounce’), how to be authentic and why it matters. Counsellors and psycho therapists are required to undergo therapy whilst they train. The same requirement should be made of teachers, so they don’t project their baggage onto their classes.
I think authenticity is discouraged within teaching. Instead sterile professional standards dictate behaviour and conduct. Which, sadly, defines many school cultures nationally. Teachers are known to moan, but whether they express themselves with congruence, meaning an alignment with their emotions and words, is another matter. We’ve all heard an incongruous “I’m fine”, when asking someone how they are. When we’re disingenuous we create barriers and breed mistrust between ourselves, our students and our colleagues.
Many say teaching is a performance, which it is, but I shudder when I hear teachers say, “I never smile before Christmas.” It’s a tactic that works, yes, but it’s one which lends itself towards Freire’s banking model of education. Beyond the microcosm of our classrooms we have to recognise that we’re undergoing a paradigm shift presently and how we teach in our classrooms and the relationships we develop with our students matters now more than ever. We need to create a new story for our futures, different from the fractious one we have emerged from and find ourselves in.
Peace education requires one to be open and trusting – to be at peace with oneself. The label of ‘teacher’ should be scrapped as it is stigmatised. Instead we should view ourselves as therapists – but understood from an etymological perspective. Born from the Greek theraputes – to go along with. Likewise, as educators – our duty should be to draw from within, taken from the Latin educare, which requires an acknowledgement of a student’s individuality. Rather than teaching to an exam and trying to optimise every minute of contact time, as productivity towards a predetermined objective, so one can demonstrate progress has been made.
No mean feat when performance management governs our approach to teaching. Something needs to change. Sustainable systemic transformation will only come from the top. Meanwhile the brave amongst us can challenge from the chalkface.