Pete Wailes’ short story on the future of education (“The Life and Times of James Roebuck, Part 1”) raises some provocative issues about the teaching profession.
It’s a worthwhile read, but make sure you read all 1,286 words. At first blush, it might seem like Wailes is another school reformer who thinks technology will replace 55 million teachers who currently teach in classrooms worldwide. In future-speak, Wailes writes:
Shortly after the invention of the quantum computer chip, and the laying of fibre optic broadband to almost every house in the UK, it had been clear that the days of teaching as a profession were numbered. Teaching had been relegated to a minority profession in a matter of years.
But then it gets a bit more interesting. Just as he was convincing readers that the teaching profession “couldn’t withstand the onslaught of technology”—to the delight of many self-proclaimed school reformers—Wailes pivots.
He raises questions about who would curate resources, moderate virtual learning, and oversee the interaction of children and adolescents. He raises questions about who would make sure that children have safe places to learn, and that all children have access to the knowledge and resources needed to be successful.
Wailes’ essay promises a “Part 2.” I’m hopeful that the sequel will suggest that though technology can democratize knowledge, without teachers—especially expert ones—there will be no opportunity for students to use that knowledge to promote and sustain democracy.
Renee Moore, NBCT, Milken winner, and erudite teacher-author, pictured with one her students from her years teaching in Shelby, Mississippi. Knowledge of children, culture, and community, along with deep subject matter expertise make for excellent teachers. And Renee is one of the best.
Regardless of what the profession looks like in the future, we will undoubtedly need more teacher leaders—teacher leaders like Renee Moore, a longstanding member of our Teacher Leaders Network and profiled in our forthcoming Jossey-Bass book, Teacherpreneurs. Below, Renee reflects on her teaching practice:
When I sit down next to each of my students or with a small group of them (physically or virtually) to share their most recent work; to reflect on how they have grown as writers since their last piece or since the start of the course; to give sincere, critical feedback on what would help make it better—I am doing what no technology or software program can provide. It is through these very human interactions that I also show them that they have worth far beyond a number on a scale. This is at the core of teaching.
I’m eager to read more of what Wailes has to say about technology and the teaching profession. Teacher leaders like Renee—and the millions like her around the world—will be the ones leading the technology revolution by implementing the technology and balancing it with real-life, personalized interaction.
Wailes’ story shows us that there’s more to look forward to in the coming years than just robot-powered cars. A future with a true teacher-led education system—now that’s something to get excited about.