Setting an Example: should teachers be role models?

Sunday 1 November, 12.30pm until 1.30pm, Lecture Theatre 2 Lunchtime Debates

The prevailing idea of a good teacher today seems to be a responsible person who ‘models good practice’ in private life as well as at work, acting as a ‘role model’ to children who would otherwise fall short or go off the rails in the face of the myriad temptations of modern British cities. (No drugs! No drink! No arguments!) This breaks with previous understandings of teachers as inspiring individuals, and even rebels with a cause to liberate the minds of the young from the dead weight of old ideas – a view captured in a film like Dead Poets Society or a play like Alan Bennett’s The History Boys. Socrates himself was charged with corrupting the young of Ancient Greece before he took the hemlock, but most of us still seem to think he was performing a useful public service. Recent disciplinary findings at the General Teaching Council, and the institutionalisation of Criminal Records Bureau checks, imply teachers must now focus as much on what type of characters they are as on what kind of lessons they deliver.

This all raises many interesting questions. Is a CRB certificate now more important that a PGCE?  Should all teachers ‘suit up’ and model ‘good practice’ and ‘interpersonal relations’ to their students? Can a teacher be irresponsible in private but responsible at work?  Indeed, should teachers even expect to have a division between their private and public lives when they do such an important job for society? Do the new ‘role model’ approaches work, or do they subtly impose a new conformity on teacher-student relations? And what does all this mean for the changing aim of education in modern Britain?

Speakers
Sarah Ebner
editor, Times Online education blog, School Gate; journalist and broadcaster.

Martin Johnson
deputy general secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers; author, Subject To Change: new directions for the school curriculum

Kevin Rooney
politics teacher and head of social science, Queen's School, Bushey; co-author, Who's Afraid Of The Easter Rising?

Chair:
Dr Mark Taylor
vice principal, East London Science School; London convenor, IoI Education Forum


Produced by
Kevin Rooney politics teacher and head of social science, Queen's School, Bushey; co-author, Who's Afraid Of The Easter Rising?
Dr Mark Taylor vice principal, East London Science School; London convenor, IoI Education Forum
Recommended readings
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Melanie Newman, Times Higher Education, 1 October 2009

Fifteen months for a foolish affair?

The jailing of a teacher who had a lesbian affair with a 15-year-old girl is a victory for legalism rather than justice.

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Ellie Levenson, TES, 14 August 2009

The new code of conduct: is it wanted or needed?

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Incoming chair of teacher regulator warns on privacy

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David Marley, TES, 29 May 2009

How important are role models?

A teacher, pupil and parent each express their views

Hester Lacey, Guardian, 11 November 2008

The potential of role-model education

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Daniel Rose, the encyclopedia of informal education, 2004

Session partners