Less than a year ago Soledad decided to leave her permanent position as a teacher in a public school to pursue an uncertain path square. She made this difficult decision out of responsibility, being aware that as a school teacher her contribution to the progress and improvement of the quality of education in her country was very limited.
Soledad’s story is the story of many teachers around the world. Teachers who out of experience have the vision, ability and commitment needed to trigger the necessary changes to improve education. Teachers who undergo a high level of frustration for not being able to influence the educational progress of their community. Teachers who are not being taken into consideration. Does this story ring a bell?
We bring to the table in this post an excerpt from Soledad reflections about her situation as a teacher, about the new and changing needs of students and about the challenge all this poses to current teachers.
MEMORIES OF A TEACHER IN PERU
Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
Nelson Mandela (July 18th, 1918)
I am María Soledad Ulloa Solís, a Peruvian teacher. I am 38 years old and have worked at all levels of formal basic education. In this year 2014, after 13 years of work, I decided to leave my school, my appointment as a civil servant and my job security in the hope of carrying out, with the participation of strategic partners, an educational proposal that I have developed along with my colleagues from school. Our purpose is to participate in building a better world for our children through education.
And now you are probably wondering: why did I leave my school? In the past three years I did not find adequate spaces for professional development as a teacher. The various governments of my country are making unremitting efforts in education reforms, however, in practice the administrative bureaucracy is not in tune with the new times and challenges.
Every single day I wondered: What can I do to improve the Peruvian education system?
In 2004 having freedom of action I had my first teaching experience. Realizing the need of children to learn to read and write by playing, and with an open classroom approach, I developed a strategy of reading comprehension in conjunction with my kids called “Little Whale, a never ending tale” This character generated great expectations and its effectiveness has been validated by several generations of my students in the classroom. Years later, from 2013, the children said:
Teacher, Little Whale does not move, it’s static!
I realized that teaching materials should cover the interests of children, we have to get along with different scenarios according to the times and countries, and the sign of the times nowadays in children is movement and speed. Ever since then I have been looking for ways to make this character come alive.
Being a Teacher in The Present Millennium
My experience in the classroom leads me to say that kids today are very different from the kids of 10 years ago, which means the training we had at the university has become obsolete: we do not know how to teach this generation of digital natives.
The problem we face now is basically that over 80% of teachers have an average age of between 40 and 50 years, and they need to retrain, train and adapt to change, which means “unlearn” because we have been taught to educate a passive, dependent child, and today what we find is an active, independent child tied to the “how to” and “learning to learn” in order to face a lifetime of rapid and continuous change.
All this I have told you is what I want to capture in a book I’m working on: “The memoirs of a teacher.” In it I will highlight my painful experience for years of “Unlearning the Learned”, since what I learned was no good. Now I have to go back to study at the University of Life, a permanent self-education under the principles of educational benchmarking.
I also describe the vicissitudes experienced by teachers to exercise the magisterium, as well as my transit through the various levels of formal basic education up to university teaching. All this made me think and elaborate a proposal to transform the educational system in Peru. This book is the voice of teachers with a view to change, because we believe that education changes should be done from the bottom up, ie, real education policies should raise from the classroom.
Soledad Solís Ulloa has recently been named pedagogical advisor to the Ministry of Education of Peru, teacher educator and works with companies and educational institutions.
Soledad, thanks for your thoughts and your enthusiasm.