I’m a teacher: what does that mean?

The beginning of my guiding question reads as follows: “how can I, as a teacher…”

I’m a teacher. I’ve been teaching (officially) for 2.5 years. Much longer if I count the endless volunteer hours, and time spent teaching family members, friends, anyone who would play with me when I was young.  My teaching sometimes occurs in a classroom, standing in front of the class, telling them about why BC decided to join Canada in 1871.  My teaching sometimes occurs in the way that I speak to two girls who had an argument: they learn not by what I say, but by the way that I care and help them.  My teaching sometimes occurs when I am out with family, and I show my niece how to hold the frisbee flat (like a plate of meatballs!), towards your body, and then FLICK! it outwards.  My teaching sometimes occurs when I’m volunteering with street youth, and they watch the way that I love, the way that I help. But as a teacher, I should know what it MEANS to be a teacher. When someone asks me “what do you do?” I shouldn’t just say ‘teach’, but rather know what that really includes.

Teaching in the old sense of the word simply meant passing down information gathered from ancestors, to the younger generations.  I take information I learned (from a teacher, from a book, from a relative), and I give it to someone else.  It was like a bucket: mine is full of knowledge, I’ll just pour a little of mine into yours.

However, in 2016 teaching no longer is so simple.  We no longer have a finite amount of information that needs to be gathered and projected forwards.  To teach then is not only an occupation that passes on ideas, but rather a looking ahead to the challenges and needs of the future, while remembering the lessons learned in the past. Teaching then is a gleaning process: weeding out and deciding on what is important, passing some of this information onwards. More than just passing on information, teaching must be clear guidance in the skills that the student will need in the future. Teaching does not only occur in a school setting, but in social settings, and in the whole world that lies around them.
Martin (1996) proposes that the teacher is no longer the means to an end (an education), but rather the guide for the future. The teacher cannot teach everything, and so must decide on what is important to move forward. If we truly want our students to be able to cope and flourish in their future lives, teaching then includes guiding and showing our students the skills necessary (creativity, teamwork, critical thinking, personal awareness, research skills, communication, etc.). Teaching then is sharing knowledge with our students in an attempt not to have them memorize lots of things, but to have them apply that knowledge in developing the capacity for future learning and growth. Teaching then should be guiding our students towards developing their own thought processes, and to realize their highest potential.

Resources:

Hennessey, B.A., & Amabile, T.M. (2010). Creativity. Annual Review of Psychology, 61, 569 – 598. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.093008.100416
Martin, J.R. (1996). There’s too much to teach: Cultural wealth in an age of scarcity. Educational Researcher, 25(2), 4–16. doi: 10.3102/0013189X025002004
Mueller, J.S., Melwai, S., & Goncalo, J.A. (2012). The bias against creativity: Why people desire but reject creative ideas. Psychological Science, 23(1), 13–17. doi: 10.1177/0956797611421018

 

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