It is truly wonderful that Andria Zafirakou has won the Varkey Foundation’s 2018 Global Teacher Prize. Her story is inspiring and unique, but it will resonate with other teachers working in UK schools where many languages are spoken and where the environment immediately outside of the school gates can be challenging.
I have been following and learning more about all ten finalists for this prize – their stories of dedication and impact are incredible. Collectively these teachers represent a welcome shift in how we are defining 'success' in schools.
Two of the finalists, Barbara Zielonka and Koen Timmers, are #TeachSDGs ambassadors and are especially passionate about using the framework of the Global Goals to enhance curriculum, pedagogy and the student (and teacher) experience. Koen is also one of the contributors to the book I’m currently reading, alongside a collection of other visionary
teachers, contemplating the changing environments and challenges within in education in what is termed the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).
One of the strongest takeaways from this book so far chimes with my longstanding view that although technology will change the tools and landscape of education, the role of the ‘human’ teacher will remain absolutely critical. I'd add that as a parent of children who spend a fair bit of time at clubs and on 'screens' (rightly or wrongly), I've never been so aware of the fact that teachers often spend more quality, communication time with students than any other adult in their life. Although we continue to debate what 21st century skills will be required in a world where we can only hypothesize what sorts of jobs will be available to the next generations, consensus is emerging that some of the core ‘C’s (critical thinking, communication, collaboration, curiosity) are skills best delivered by human beings that can empathize with and inspire other human beings. Because, as Michael Soskil says, teachers can ‘love’ and computers cannot!
Reading this book and the many articles in the media about Andria this morning, I’m reminded of some key (albeit quite simple and well-known) themes that have featured in discussions with many teachers over the last five years of the Global Learning Programme (GLP):
1) That the arts and creativity are absolutely essential in schools, and that we should be doing everything we can to protect, support and evidence their incredible impact.
2) That ensuring the space and time for inspiring professional development for teachers (by other human beings, in person, not just MOOCs) is vital.
3) That so much of what is good about, and important for, 21st century teaching, learning and schooling cannot be measured by performance-based testing and quantitative data alone.
4) That a good mentor who creates a safe (and creative) space for listening and expression is crucial to navigate the challenges of feeling labelled, marginalized or disempowered.
5) That in the 4IR age we have to further entrench the importance of lifelong learning, and that all of the above points are as relevant for businesses and the workplace as they are for schools.
Congratulations Andria and all of the staff and students at Alperton Community school (great to see that Alperton is a registered partner school on our GLP), I suspect this week will be a very exciting one for you all!