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Pupils want role models

Pupils want role models

Everyone in this country has attended a school. Everyone knows what a good teacher is like. Everyone has opinions. And often the school is viewed in black or white, according to Kennert Orlenius, professor and researcher in pedagogical work at the University of Borås. In his research he wants to highlight the complexity of the teaching profession and emphasises how important it is to already during the teacher training challenge pupils to handle these unforeseen complexities.

The public debate focuses on teachers having good knowledge of their subject and that they can plan lessons. That teachers have methods and techniques to convey the message to pupils. However, the teachers' normative assignment to foster is often neglected.

Kennert Orlenius“Every day the pedagogical work is filled with underlying norms and valuations which the teacher conveys to the pupils.  It is rare that you view these every day situations based on ethical terms,” says Kennert Orlenius.

Conflicts occur daily in the school, sometimes serious and sometimes more general. And when they occur teachers often act instinctively and intuitively. But as a teacher you should be able to justify and communicate your behaviour.

“The big challenge is to teach prospective teachers to handle the unforeseen. They need intellectual tools so that they can identify and reason on the situations.  They should ask the questions: why do I behave in this or the other manner? and what are the options?,” he says.

Pupils want the teachers to intervene

Swedish schools are characterised by a good relationship between pupils and teachers. Surveys reveal that the number of pupils who stated that they felt it was easy to contact their teachers rose from 50 per cent to 80 per cent from the middle of the 1900s to 2005.

“The media often highlights chaos in the classrooms, not that schools are filled with everyday heroes who are highly significant for our youngsters.   For many children and youths the school and teachers are saviours,” he claims.

Kennert Orlenius has conducted studies which show that pupils actually think that it is important for the teacher to be a moral role model. He has studied 325 pupils from the years 6, 9 and year 3 in upper secondary schools. The majority of them believe that the teacher should act if the pupils use swear words or words referring to sex. Most also think that the school should encourage pupils to care about injustices in society.

High morals among children and youths

He claims that studies also show that pupils already have a great sense of ethics. Approximately 80 per cent of the pupils completely or partially agree with the claim that it is “more important to be a good person than a rich person,” and to the question of whether a classmate takes photographs of someone in the shower, 85 per cent claim that they would speak up.

“There is a moral awareness among the majority of children and youths. It is often in the older generations it is lacking. Just look at all the corruption which is exposed time and time again among senior managers and the bullying which takes place at workplaces.”

He explains that each prospective teacher should have the opportunity to develop their professional ethical awareness and understand how important they are for pupils. 

“And they need to be aware of the impact of their behaviour.  But there are few higher education institutions who include this in their teacher training.  The University of Borås is an exception in this case,” says Kennert Orlenius.

Text: Anna Kjellsson
Illustration: Emma Hanquist/Form nation
Porträtt: Ulf Nilsson