Monarca, H. & Thoilliez, B. (Eds.) (2017). La profesionalización docente: debates y propuestas [The professionalisation of teaching: debates and proposals]. (Francisco Esteban Bara)
Monarca, H. & Thoilliez, B. (Eds.) (2017).
La profesionalización docente: debates y propuestas [The professionalisation of teaching: debates and proposals].
Madrid: Síntesis. 146 pp.
To say that the prospects of Teacher Professional Development (TPD) are worrying does not involve saying anything new, except, obviously, for those who have spent years unwilling to see and listen. I sincerely believe that the current situation is not rosy. The delicate state of TPD has been analysed in famous pieces of research and essays that are reference points, which everyone is familiar with to a greater or lesser extent or has analysed in detail. This reality is not just unpromising, but also gives us cause for concern. Not all of us, of course, only those of us who still believe in something similar to what George Steiner wrote in his Lessons of the Masters, namely that «there is no craft more privileged»; at least for those of us who still believe that being a teacher is much more than knowing how to deploy a list of technical and instrumental skills, at least, for those who at this stage in proceedings still think that the lucky professionals to whom Steiner referred are called upon to change lives in the most profound meaning of both words.
But there is not enough reason to lose hope, especially because green shoots sometimes appear. How satisfying it is to come across one of them. This book is a green shoot, and one of the good ones. Two enthusiastic devotees of education, Héctor Monarca and Bianca Thoilliez, have undertaken the task of bringing together qualified and dedicated voices to analyse TPD to show us the state of play with clarity and in depth, and no less importantly, to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. Reading this book confronts the reader with the challenge of achieving a dual objective. The editors, with the collaboration of Javier M. Valle, state this at the end of the introduction. On the one hand, it aims to «make us more aware of the paradoxical weakening that the teaching profession is experiencing as a consequence of the various aspects covered in the debates on TPD analysed in each chapter». And on the other, it aims to «improve our capacity for critical resistance, in-depth reflection, and imagining new horizons and ideas for training teachers». The editors, as they confirm in this introduction, hope that the book will «at least» achieve these aims. They should not worry; it works for these important questions, and very well indeed.
The book is divided into ten independent chapters, all of which are of interest and all with their own focus and all with much to contribute to TPD. That said, with all due humility, I will take the liberty of presenting in a different order to how they are listed in the table of contents. I have grouped some of them together, namely the ones that, in my opinion, have a certain relationship and that could perhaps be consulted together. This is not one of those books that has to be read cover to cover to understand anything. It has the virtue of being a forest of ideas without a marked path, a map where the reader forges her own route in accordance with her interests, wishes, and needs. Having said this, chapter 1, by Enric Prats and Ana Marín, compares the system of initial teacher training and the rate of changes affecting current school systems. This topic is interesting, especially because it is assumed that one of these things (teacher training) should not fall out of step with the other (school life); above all because we firmly believe that the teacher of today must be prepared for what might happen out there in the classroom and not be side-lined. This chapter could be complemented by chapter 8, written by Jesús Manso himself. This chapter presents the demands current reality imposes on TPD, focussing in particular on initiation into the educational profession. This chapter once again recalls, and a good thing it is too as this can never be repeated enough, that initial teacher training has a deep effect that shapes everything that might come later.
Chapter 2, written by Paul Standish, takes us into the philosophy of education, a field that feeds and disrupts and which no teacher should ever ignore. This chapter considers the idea of otherness, insofar as the teacher establishes an absolute and humanising relationship with the student, and the idea of intensity, insofar as educational practice is an authentic experience that leaves nobody unmoved. I would go so far as to say that both questions are absolutely fundamental for TPD. In addition to this text, we could mention he one by Fernando Gil (chapter 6) where he draws attention to the need for teachers who have pedagogical convictions, professionals who do not fall into the quagmire of moral relativism, in short, solid teachers for fluid times. This also depends on acquiring theoretical knowledge, proven educational speculation that teachers must know to be able to confront educational reality with a minimum of guarantees. It is odd we find it so hard to convince ourselves of the importance of the things are that are, so pertinently presented in this chapter. David Reyero (chapter 9) contributes more ideas to the philosophical debate opened in Standish’s chapter and the chapter by Gil, namely the importance of the curricular knowledge transmitted in teacher training for reflection on the aims of education. It is certainly difficult to conceive of a teacher who does not propose such aims or who leaves them in the hands of passing opinions or ideas of the moment. And yet, it is easy to find this harsh reality, with teachers who educate without keeping aims in sight, without a moral compass worth following. Tania Alonso (chapter 7) continues along the philosophical path that has been laid down, delving into the personal identity of teaching staff, something which is essential for understanding the role a teacher must perform. She does so following the example of Charles Taylor, one of our most important living philosophers and a true international reference point in precisely that area, identity and authenticity.
Chapter 3 is written by one of the book’s editors, Héctor Monarca, and it presents a very interesting matter that is often overlooked. I refer to the huge disparity of ideas, concepts, differences, and vicissitudes concerning what is said and done in the area of TPD. It is worth pausing to reflect on this topic. Contradictory iscourses and opinions that cannot be reconciled can greatly hinder the task of education. The next chapter is also written by one of the editors, Bianca Thoilliez. This chapter praises what teaching really is and critiques the current abuse suffered by this practice, human par excellence and hmanising by obligation. It is a text that should be read by any teachers who feel themselves getting dispirited and who want to continue devoting themselves in body and soul to the privileged profession of which Steiner speaks. This chapter has a link to the one that follows it, written by Geo Saura and Noelia Fernández-González. Here (chapter 5) the perverse effect of the neoliberal ideology on TPD is examined. Reading this is strongly recommended to prevent us from losing sight of the environment we find ourselves in, and so we do not forget what tools we have to work with. Chapter 10, by Inmaculada Egido, presents an interesting reflection on the teaching practices or placements trainee teachers do. As has been argued throughout this book, a good placement programme can be very beneficial for TPD and for schools, and more specifically, for the practising teachers who host those who dream of teaching.
In conclusion, TPD matters, but instead is the heart of formal education, of that mysterious and fantastic process that on every day and at every hour of the school week takes place in our primary and secondary schools. This book cover this topic, and reading it is not just a good idea but is strongly recommended. Here the reader will not find the answers a utilitarian mind would want; here questions are raised, criticisms presented, ideas put forward. In other words, there is a reasoned and passionate reflection on better education, on the fact that another education is possible.
Francisco Esteban Bara ■