Have you ever stopped to think about the difference between a surgeon’s and a mechanic’s work? Think of something sophisticated like, say, a spaceship. Both have the mission to “fix”: one, the brain or the heart; the other, the onboard computer or the engine. Some say that teaching also has something to fix, to “fix” the students. When answering, therefore, think about the work of teachers. Do you think he is more like the surgeon or the mechanic?
In these three cases, they have a lot of technical training and professional experience. And everyone has a lot of responsibility. Still, is the nature of their work the same?
Fixing a sophisticated machine is a complicated activity because it requires a series of difficult and concatenated acts, but which, if executed with precision, will always lead to the same result, with predictable deviations or defects. Operating a brain, however, is a complex activity, because even if these difficult and concatenated acts are performed with the utmost precision, the results are much less predictable. How many times do we hear doctors say “I did everything according to protocol, but it still went wrong”.
As well as taking care of human health, it is said in Learning Science that educating is a complex activity. In addition to technical knowledge and experience in pedagogy, teachers face an additional challenge: even if they use the same recipe to teach several children, the learning of each one of them will be unique and very unpredictable.
It is known that learning outcomes improve with repeated practice, but not according to the normal curve: infrequent events can have big impacts, observing something known as the power law. In other words, there is no typical learning effect or defect, as in the case of the rocket. Each student has their own neural structure, which is uniquely reorganized to deal with the information they receive from the environment. Just see how the same scolding leads to different behaviors among your children.
Furthermore, learning in human beings is inseparable from their emotional state. Unlike the traditional teaching model, designed so that “students study at school and feel at home” as if they were a machine, today it is neuro-scientifically known that reason and emotion are part of a mental process that cannot be divided.
The teacher, like the surgeon, deals with a complex adaptive being. Learning outcomes depend on the student’s own largely unconscious attributes and standards, the largely unconscious teacher’s attributes and standards, and the quality of interaction in the classroom and school environment. And however good the effort, they cannot be guaranteed.
The myth of the robot teacher (as well as the robot student) no longer makes sense in this century. No matter how professional, the teacher necessarily carries his emotions into the classroom. This includes everything you are experiencing in your daily life, including your relationship with families and the school’s coordination. The relationship between teacher and student is even more important for the final result than that between surgeon and patient. The teacher’s field of action is that of the relationship with the student. It is up to him to lead, sustaining the conditions in the classroom that allow the student to develop appropriate neural patterns (cognitive and emotional) for learning. For this, the teacher (like the surgeon) must be emotionally supported. Systemically,
It is in this context that I invite you to think about the parents’ WhatsApp group at your children’s school. Some of the groups I participated in resembled organized football fans. All screaming at the same time, cursing the donkey coach and the judge’s mother. An anthropological phenomenon of the Digital Revolution. They were very committed and well-intentioned people who, as a group, allowed the same hostility and polarization that we experience in other dimensions of the country to prevail.
As much as parents love their children, as much as they want to influence the school so they have the best, and as much as they have the right to demand quality educational service, they cannot fail to take into account the complex nature of child education. their children by contributing to the group.
Parents are not clients of the school, as they are car mechanics, because these activities are very different. By definition, no answer is the truth in the education of children, but a true answer, precisely because it was built from the inclusive dialogue between schools and families, and the pedagogical experience of educators. Taking care of our children is too complex to be left in the hands of mechanics and, therefore, the role of parents in building this dialogue is fundamental.
* By Fernando Shayer, Founder and CEO of, Active Learning Platform