Primary school teachers need to know a lot of things; they teach a lot of subjects and they need to know an awful lot.
Primary teachers have often been seen as the general practitioners of junior education but let’s not beat around the bush – they are teacher polymaths.
These remarkable teachers have to connect the dots and possess a wealth of interdisciplinary knowledge.
The term ‘polymath’ has nothing to do with maths but with the competency to think and act interdisciplinary (Repenning et al 2021).
A polymath is “a person of wide knowledge or learning” (Oxford Dictionary) with expertise spanning across a wide spectrum of subject areas and domains.
Primary teachers are polymaths because they know a lot about many different things. They embrace diversity of thought, they are integrators and they are anti-fragile. Being a polymath is a strength not a weakness.
A teacher polymath is a multifaceted educational professional who approaches teaching, learning and assessment with an open mind, with their eyes wide open and their curiosity in a state of constant high alert.
The polymath teacher reads voraciously across different subjects and they apply their breadth of knowledge to solving problems in sophisticated and creative ways.
Teacher polymaths have their fingers on the pulse and absorb that which informs and strengthens their work in the world.
The balanced primary polymath teacher has an area of expertise that he or she throws themselves into delves into with gusto, creativity, and enthusiasm. But they don’t neglect their other curriculum responsibilities.
They can’t possibly know everything there is to know about primary education but their interests are broad enough to teach with competence and they are always learning, reading and growing as well-rounded practitioners.
In a modern knowledge economy, polymath teachers are needed more than ever as learners need to be polymaths too rather than being pushed into a narrow specialist field to do ‘something’.