Alexander and pupil AristotleTeaching is dead, long live the teacher!

Technology is creeping into every classroom. I say ‘creeping’ because a large part of a typical student’s day at many schools can still be defined by activities involving paper, a pen or pencils, and worksheets or textbooks… Useful tools that should only have a small role in teaching today. The problem is that teaching, where the tools are primarily used for sharing static information, is dead.

A large part of a typical student’s day at many schools can also be defined by the traditional role of a teacher as the expert in the room, sharing content. A useful role that should only have a small part in teaching today. The problem is that teaching, where the teacher is primarily seen as a content delivery person, is dead.

Teaching as we have known it in the past may be dead, but the role of the teacher is more important than ever before!

     The King is dead, long live The King! …is a traditional proclamation made 

        following the accession of a new monarch in various countries.

     Teaching is dead, long live the teacher! …is a new proclamation made 

        following the rise of the role of the teacher in the field of education.

 The role of the teacher needs to look different than it ‘traditionally’ has. That said, the roles I’m about to describe aren’t necessarily new and novel. Rather, they are roles teachers have played to varying degree for years, but have been predominately overshadowed by more traditional teaching roles.

Here are some of the roles:

Teachers as facilitator: Who constructs learning experiences and supports student-led opportunities.

Teacher as coach: Who prompts students and provides them with timely feedback to keep them on track and on task.

Teacher as mentor: Who has expertise in skill or content areas and/or supports students in finding mentors beyond the school walls.

Teacher as cheerleader: Who supports students when they feel they have hit an obstacle, but who also pushes students to problem solve, rather than helping them and making the problem too easy to overcome.

Teacher as storyteller: Who can share content and/or share cross-curricular connections in a way that captivates students and entices them to want to learn more.

Teacher as philosopher: Who asks big questions and is willing to challenge the answers students, and they themselves, come up with.

Teacher as consultant: Who advises students what to do next, but leaves the work in their capable hands.

Teacher as idea incubator: Who questions students so that they can think in new directions.

 – – – – –

Teacher as ____________: Fill-in-the-blank… Help me add to the list. What do you see as one of the many newly emphasized roles that redefine what the role of the teacher is today?

Long live the teacher!

ps. 1. I’m partial to getting rid of the term teacher and using the term educator. 2. Thanks to John Sarte for helping me with some of the definitions you see above. Follow John, @mrsarte1, whose twitter profile describes him as “Inquiry Hub facilitator…”

17 comments on “Teaching is dead, long live the teacher!

  1. Hi David. I have ofter voiced how I’ve seen my career transition through many of the choices you’ve offered here. Perhaps in retrospect it should be more properly seen by me not so much as an evolution, but a broadening of practice over the years. The glaring omission from this list however is the absence of “Lead-Learner.”

    In many rubrics for learning the hierarchies have needed to be reorganized, or even flipped. In the hierarchy of learners, so often the teacher is the one seen at the pinnacle of learning, a place where learning is no longer seen as part of their role. This is so incorrect. If we hope to apprentice and inspire life-long learners, we must model the same. JMHO. ?

    1. I always appreciate your insight Gord,
      Yes, ‘Teacher as Lead Learner’ is an essential role!
      I’ve said that in my “Shifting Education” post: “Empower, inspire, engage and be the lead learner in your classroom or your school.” And in a post called, “Teacher as Lead Learner”: “I think that if a teacher goes into a class believing first and foremost that they are ‘model learners’ and that they will learn with their students, then that teacher will create a meaningful and engaging learning environment for their students.”
      I also appreciate your point that you’ve transitioned into these roles through a broadening of your practice. ‘Practice’… that’s what we do as lead learners, because we know there are always better ways and thus more reasons to practice.

      On another note, I was speaking to a veteran teacher today, who went through an interview to apply for teaching in the summer. He was asked to share a powerful learning experience and he thought of something he hadn’t thought of in a long time. The memory surprised him and he admitted that he got a little chocked up in his response. His response: I can remember the day that I realized that I was teaching students and not subjects, and that my relationship with my students was more important than what I was teaching.

      Imagine how sad it would be if this veteran teacher didn’t continue his own learning journey!

      To continue that thought, in a twitter conversation with Michelle Hiebert, she said, “I love the new definitions of teacher. I don’t know if I ever fit the original mold.” and so I’ll end this comment response by saying that many educators have been redefining old roles for a while now!

      I look forward to more people sharing their perspective!

      1. Thanks for the mention, Dave! Maybe I should expand on what I said (140 characters is limiting) and say that perhaps because I have always been a primary teacher (predominantly K and 1) that the traditional role of lecturer and sharing content is not one I have displayed much in my career. In Kindergarten most of our learning is done through exploration and discovery with the teacher acting in the roles you outlined above. With the new curriculum on the horizon, I think that these different teaching roles will be expanded to the upper grades to a greater degree as we help our students more with mastering core competencies rather than focusing on so much content. And yes, lead learner is an important role, as we “practice what we preach” and demonstrate to our students that learning is exciting!

        1. So true Michelle,

          How about: Teacher as lead explorer.

          And on the theme of exploration, perhaps every teacher should spend a month in a Kindergarten class with a teacher mentor! 🙂

            1. In China, my pre-school teacher caught on that my daily visit was most often during snack time… all the kids were seated with their hands busy eating food. 😉
              I had to model a lesson in a grade 1/2 blend once and that was exhausting! I have the utmost respect for teachers that actually teach kids to read, and to be model citizens. People often asked me how on earth I could teach middle school for as long as I did, but for me that was a great age. The key thing is that we all have a lot to learn from each other and respect for the challenges at all the different levels is a great place to start!

  2. I propose teacher as a bridge-buider who helps students to collaborate in a peacefull climate, to speak each other, accept new ideas…to developp collective intelligence in the classroom, like a team builder!

    1. Sylvie,
      I love the metaphor of the bridge… And I think that metaphor can extend beyond the classroom walls and into larger communities. Your emphasis on being open and accepting is also important and wonderful!

  3. Hi David,

    How about ‘Teacher as Positive Role Model’ -Who consistently models responsible, respectful, relationships for students who rarely encounter such behaviour.

  4. I’m really enjoying the responses to this post, Dave. I also love the way you phrased the first two paragraphs, that static information and content delivery are dead.

    I would say that one role of the teacher that hasn’t changed for me is teacher as scientist. I have always felt like a scientist in the classroom, testing different ways to teach each child so they might learn, finding out what methods worked for which child, researching new methods and ideas and taking the best practice – next practice stance at all times for each individual student. What has changed, is that now I can connect worldwide to share my thinking and ideas so that I have more theories and hypotheses to test, more tools to try, more options to help each child learn. And, by sharing, I might also be helping a “scientist” teacher in Australia, Singapore, or even just in the next town, find the one thing that might help a child understand, or become engaged and excited about learning. Crowd accelerated innovation -> more ideas = better opportunities to find the right one.

    Thanks for posting this!

    1. Thanks Donna,
      I think ‘Teacher as scientist’ sums up what we have been doing at Inquiry Hub… more social sciences in a way, but the method of experiment, gather data, work with feedback (primarily from students and colleagues), and then repeat the cycle, has been very important for us. We still need to be connecting beyond our walls better, but some of our students are leading the way. I have a student working on programming who has been in touch with programmers at a start-up company to help him decide what to learn next. He did this out of his own initiative, but it should be something we encourage, and foster.
      The journey continues!

  5. The Teacher is a safety net – who encourages students to be vulnerable, take risks and explore by facilitating a secure place to do so.

  6. This article really resonated with me because in many of the new roles you describe teachers taking on, all of them allow for mistakes as part of the learning process. I am coming from a place where my students don’t think they can make mistakes, and I want them to move to a place where mistakes are important learning opportunities, and not to be feared. Thanks for writing this blog.

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