I stumbled across an interesting post a little while ago which encourages high school teachers to spend some time working in the primary school. What a great idea! All of us, no matter where we teach in the education spectrum, will have opinions (some of them quite strong) about who are the better teachers… Primary or Secondary. The reality, of course, is that we are not necessarily talking about better, but what skills they bring to the classroom.
You will have heard the well-worn comment that high school teachers teach subjects and primary teachers teach students. I don’t intend to buy into that argument here, but I do love Alice Leung’s encouragement and I wish more high school teachers did take the chance to at least visit a primary classroom to observe, if not even spend time teaching there. Why? Because I do believe that the skills Primary teachers use can and should be transferred into the Secondary classroom.
I trained as a primary school teacher and taught in Years 5 to 7 for about 14 years. I’ve now taught in the Middle Years for the same amount of time, teaching mainly Year 8 but some classes have been with 7’s, 9’s and 10’s.
Here’s what I know about primary teachers and primary level education…
Primary teachers do know their students well. They spend the majority of their day with the same kids and al relationship happens. I know this can happen in high school but often not to the same depth.
Primary teachers tend to develop strong skills at breaking down a task or skill into sequential, manageable parts. The behaviour management on a primary class tends to be quite broad and diverse.
Primary teachers create the best cross-curricular links. The do it naturally and tend to have a strong integration focus.
Primary teachers do have subject knowledge depth. They also have the additional skill of scaffolding that knowledge for their students.
Now, none of this is to say that secondary teachers aren’t great! I know they are. And there are definitely things primary teachers can learn from them. But in saying all of that, I know that what happens in a primary classroom is something special. There is a lot that High school teachers can learn from working in this area.
Perhaps my final comment needs to be this however: greater than any debate about Primary or Secondary education or teachers, I KNOW that the best teachers are those who work in the Middle Years. They tend to be a wonderful blend of the best of both worlds.
What do you reckon are the best qualities of Primary and Secondary teachers?
Leave some comments.