Learning can be defined as transformation, and so teaching may be defined as effecting change in those we teach. However, desiring change in others may be problematic. I follow this mantra, from John Mason:
I cannot change others, I can only work at changing myself.
Mary Boole famously talked of 'teacher lusts', referring to the teacher's desire to 'make those under him [sic] conform themselves to his [sic] ideals.'
David Pimm describes how the word change causes him 'much concern', and talks of teacher-educator lusts:
I think we should examine equally critically our need (lust?) for the teachers we work with to change... It is a continuation of the dangerous idiocy of assessing teachers (under the name of "accountability") through their students' results. If I as a teacher educator can only feel successful if the teachers I work with change (and in ways I want them to), I am setting up both myself and the teachers I am working with quite dramatically. I believe it is dangerous to lose sight of how difficult personal change can be - and we should not talk lightly or glibly about it, let alone expect or demand it.
We, as teachers, are desirous of change: in students, in others that we work with, in ourselves, but I share David Pimm's concern. Under which authority can I demand that others change? And how do I know this change is for the better?
Perhaps we can only offer an invitation to consider a course of action, to educate awareness of possible choices and implications of such choices.
If another does not meet the demands that we consider necessary, how might we react? There may be disappointment or concern, with which may come the temptation to resort to a more lustful approach. But this might not be effective in the long term as it may close off opportunities for developing relationships and responsibilities.
Dorothy Heathcote suggests we may draw upon authority that is not our authority:
All my strategies enable me to create a disciplined world and to find ways of using power without its being my power. Frequently I use the power of the subject to discipline a group. I say, 'It demands this of us' - not 'I demand this of you.'
Should we in teaching positions be responsible for whether one we teach chooses to learn?
If we accept that we cannot change others, we can only be responsible for setting favourable conditions in which learning can occur. For this reason, Gert Biesta suggests separating teaching from learning:
...learning - as task and as achievement - is ‘of the learner,’ and that what teachers should try to bring about is not the learning itself, but the activity of studenting. In this set up, learning is, at most, the ‘effect’ of the activity of studenting, but not of the activity of teaching. And this is a helpful insight for indicating with more precision what teachers can be held responsible and accountable for, and what not.
Others may choose not to, or may not yet be able, to accept the invitation to learn that is offered. We can only educate others to become able to accept such invitations, to create situations in which this becomes possible.
We may have to wait with patience for those we teach to become able to respond to the demands that are being made of them. Dick Tahta uses the phrase, 'taking the wanting out of the waiting'.
Could we in teaching positions ask: might our desire for change prevent transformation?