Saturday, 9 February 2008

Teacher versus Educator - they are not the same!

Vocabulary is really important as we move to transform education systems every where. Parents and teachers know how they were taught and still, in far too many cases, we are replicating that model, even if a few bells and whistles are added. The language of schools brings all the memories and connotations of our own previous experiences.

I am getting more and convinced that we need to think about replacing the word teacher with the very American sounding educator. The latter has not really existed in the UK mainstream education vocabulary - we have always talked about teachers and teaching assistants etc. Educator was always linked to the States - but may be they had it right! Even if you search onto Google images for the word 'teacher' (see above), the first images are traditional looking teachers, some standing in front of a blackboard. If you search on the word 'educator' one of the first images is of an adult surrounded by student sharing some lesson in a very interactive and collaborative way. (there are , of course exceptions to this).


Why am I thinking about this?.... well, maybe rather obviously, from talking to students on their preferred ways of learning - (see two posts below!). They don't want adults standing in front of them lecturing or telling them what precisely to do - they want facilitators to enable them to get involved in a project and continue it 'anytime, anywhere, any how'. They expect to use a range of adults or peers to help them not just ' the supposed expert'. This is reinforced by the increasing use of support staff.


No one is denying that there are many aspects (skills) that have to be 'taught', it is what happens next as students use that knowledge to reinforce their learning that is important - it has to be increasingly relevant and students DO need to see why they are learning x or y - and what the objective is. A funny part of the conference this week, was that it was not the Principals or Schools' Inspectorate asking to see the objectives of a lesson - it was the students - resistant teachers are now genuinely beginning to be caught in the middle of inevitable change.


Traditionally the teacher was always the expert who imparted knowledge, taught them techniques and helped them communicate what they had learnt. ( a generalisation I know!). Most secondary students (and many younger) these days know where to find the knowledge quickly and without the teacher, but also know that, especially regarding ICT communication techniques, they know more than the 'teacher' - often a lot more. In fact teachers often inhibit the students' use of ICT through ignorance or rules that often make little sense.


One student asked this week why we did not use blue tooth technology in lessons - not to show off - he genuinely wanted to know. (The fact that his particular school rather pointlessly bans cell phones is one issue which doesn't help!).


As we move to increasingly new collaborative and integrated lessons, which last longer, students want facilitators or educators to work with and guide them. Perhaps the traditional role of the teacher really is disappearing far faster than some would ever believe. If so, the word teacher should disappear also, and soon!


Anonymous said...

To me personally, 'educator' carries the same 'I do it to you' connotation. When I was a child, I got the best value out of adults who would take the time to mentor me in learning what was important to me at the time.

So I would nominate 'mentor', with one caveat. In general parlance, any new fashionable term soon becomes a synonym for the same tired old set of practices.

Gareth Long said...

I can't disagree with you on this -and I did think of that when I wrote the post. It's just that, as you suggest. 'mentor' does seem to cover a whole variety of roles right now in all sorts of places and is perceived by some as 'trendy'. (Not me!)

I talked to students before writing this who, before the conversation, could only think of 'teacher' - it was consensus with them that arrived at 'educator'. 'Mentor' to them implied all sorts of things. But what you describe is exactly right and how teaching should all be.

There are some times when there ia a need to 'deliver' skills or content to groups to enhance a mentoring approach.

I do agree with the point you raise though.

Thanks for writing. G

Anonymous said...

I agree with G's comment although it will be hard to agree on one term from which ever side of the Atlantic you work on.

Teacher clearly implies 'done to' on both sides, Iventing a new term would not work as it would just be another 'trendy' word to be abused.

Educator can also imply "done to" as the first comment notes.

Most schools are obselete in buildings and teaching approach - but we have to do something totally different!!