UKED Magazine Oct 2014

Page 6

So, what have the Greeks ever done for us? By Chris Eyre

As a wise person once said, ‘those that fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it’. Those of us who have been in teaching a while may feel a sense of this as we see various initiatives and ideas that we thought were long gone reappearing. As a Philosophy teacher and someone who is passionate about teacher well-being, here are three short lessons from the Greeks that the modern teacher can learn. Socrates – Your questions will be the death of you or the making of you The philosopher Socrates challenged assumptions, raised issues and asked questions of the accepted wisdom of the day. Hailed as wise by the common people, he was a bit of an inconvenience to the authorities with his maverick ways. Eventually he was arrested on highly dubious charges and was put to death by being forced to drink hemlock. Fast forward to the modern classroom; a range of accepted wisdom shifts alarmingly with the changing mood of the school inspectorate. However before we sip the aforementioned hemlock, it is worth reflecting that we are also in a period of tremendous innovation and creativity. Resource sharing, TeachMeets, and UKEdChat discussion allow for bright ideas to be shared rapidly and widely. Our ability to question and reflect as professionals can equally be the making of us. Diogenes – Get out of my light Diogenes was regarded as one of the greatest thinkers in ancient Greece. He was wise, but a little eccentric. He even spent part of his life living in a barrel. According to legend, this wise man was visited by a King who asked what he could do to help Diogenes. Whilst most people may have asked for riches, food, or even a larger barrel, Diogenes made one very simple request: ‘Get out of my light.’ Most of us do a good job most days bringing light to others, yet there are many things that would get in the way and prevent our light from shining. The current education system creaks under the weight of bureaucracy and we spend an inordinate amount of time demonstrating what we have done to those who want to weigh and measure it. Equally this is a massive challenge to any of us who are in a position of leadership. Our role should be to enable staff to shine and bring light to those they teach. If anything we do hinders that, we need to ask ourselves how we can get out of the light. Sisyphus – The heroism of teaching Poor Sisyphus was punished by the gods and condemned to an eternal fate of pushing a boulder up a hill and when it had rolled back down repeating the process over and over again. In his essay ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’, philosopher Albert Camus compares this to the human condition and admires the heroism of Sisyphus as he grits his teeth, lifts up his head and walks back down the hill to start again. There is something inspirational in that kind of human determination.

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