“We don’t know where we’re headed because we don’t know the future. But we do know that we have to make choices about where we want to go,” says Amber Walraven, lecturer at Radboud Teachers Academy. In the coming years, as a member of the Expeditie Lerarenagenda (‘Expedition Teacher Agenda’) team at the Netherlands Initiative for Education Research (NRO), she will look at the qualities required of future-proof teachers.When Amber Walraven began her studies in applied educational science in 1998, she wanted to know everything about teaching, apart from teaching itself. “I thought: teaching is simply implementing other people's ideas.” Now, as a ‘teacher of teachers,’ Walraven has quite different ideas. “I was naive. The teacher is the most important link in education. That’s because it's not just about content, but more about what you do with that content. After all, we want the new generation to actively build our society. You don't teach them that by simply getting them to read a book.”From pressure cooker to slow cookerTo teach well, teachers need time. “Many teachers work part-time to be able to deliver good work and they work on their day off. That’s absurd.” Walraven is indignant. “It’s important to realise that you can’t prepare a lesson in five minutes. A teacher wants to decide on the basis of a lesson on day one what will happen on day two. It’s not a question of today we’ll do this and tomorrow we’ll do that, regardless of what happens.” That’s why Walraven advocates that teaching should slow down. “At present we’re a pressure cooker, but we really need to be a slow cooker.”Teaching isn’t the only thing in the job description of a modern teacher. “A lot has been added to it, from mentorships to managing budgets,” says Walraven. “We have to think about whether a teacher should be able to do all of these things, or whether there’s room for some variation. If some teachers are fantastic at teaching, while others have excellent subject knowledge or research skills, together they can form a good team. At present, everyone is expected to have everything, but this could actually mean that you have nothing.” And if the teaching profession becomes more diverse, you can offer current and future teachers broader prospects.More time, more trustIt all starts by acknowledging that teaching is a full-fledged profession. “So many people say: But isn’t teaching a vocation? Aren’t teachers willing to make sacrifices? No, it’s a profession in which you use all the skills you have.” Walraven would also like to see a good staff policy in schools, which allows for professional development. She looks to the business world for this. “They have a learning culture. You are given the space to learn and your responsibility increases accordingly. In teaching, because of the teacher shortage, you are immediately given heaps of responsibility and little space to learn.”At the teachers academy, Walraven works on creating a learning culture, within the academy and in the schools that the academy collaborates with. “Once a week, practising teachers and students come together to talk about their professional field. The teachers are given time off to do so. They bring their experience and the academy contributes its expertise. This releases a huge amount of energy.” The teachers academy also works on a learning culture in schools. For example, teachers observe each other’s lessons, teach together or meet with colleagues to develop lesson plans.Education is for all of us“The best moment is when you see the impact of this knowledge exchange in the classroom,” says Walraven. “That of course is why we do it.” She sees teachers starting to teach differently, for example by analysing a test with pupils instead of rushing through the textbook. “Teachers are often under pressure. They think: we have to get through this chapter, rather than taking the time to teach students how they can best learn something. Yet that’s where the benefit lies. Teachers have to dare to do things like that, and to experience the effect it has. And we see this happening.”Building on her work at the teachers academy, Walraven investigates what is needed in the coming years to shape the future of education. She works together with six fellow researchers from the Expeditie Lerarenagenda (‘Expedition Teacher Agenda’), a programme from NRO on professional development for the teachers of today and tomorrow. “That’s because education isn’t there to implement society’s wishes. Education shapes our society, and it’s time we take a leading role.”You have a part to playOur society is facing major challenges. Radboud University wants to contribute to a healthy, free world with equal chances for everyone. With ‘Je bent nodig’ (You have a part to play), Radboud University aims to reach people who want to contribute to that goal. At Jebentnodig.nl you’ll find more articles and a link to our job opportunities.Do you want to be kept updated of our articles? Register at Radboud Recharge.Image from Javier Sierra via Unsplash.