Telling a New Story

Picture of teacher taking a picture...Ewan Mcintosh is continuing a conversation, apparently begun by Andy Gibson, at School of Everything.  In A Teacher, by Any Other Name, Andy reported on a recent meeting about an online project they are developing, where they started questioning the use of the term teacher wondering that it might be considered a liability to the project.

..it’s pretty clear from the general feedback that the word “teacher” also puts off many people with skills and experience to share.

Ewan suggests that,

As adults we rarely refer to those who teach us how to work better as ‘teacher’.

He continues that we have incorporated in our conversations, new words to label teachers, words that we hope re-image our notions of the job.  We want to call ourselves mentor, coach, FACILITATOR

I would suggest that this is too easy.  Language is useful.  It helps us to form images, and sometimes, new images.  But the word, teacher, is not the problem.  It’s the cultural story that prevails and gets retold too often and in too many ways.  We need to re-tell that story, and as we continue to talk about compelling new information and communication technologies and new information (literacy) skills involved in accessing, working, and expressing information (messages) more compellingly, perhaps we educators need to use the same tools and skills to retell our story. 

Personally, I feel that the “us-and-them” aspect is still important in classrooms.  It is perfectly alright and important for teachers to act like learners, and for learners to act like teachers.  Part of teaching is learning, and visa-versa.  Yet, authority continues to be an important component of classroom learning, even if the classroom is a Moodle interface.  The point, from my perspective, is that the job of teaching has become much more complex and much more exciting in the past 25 years — and that’s the story we need to tell.

So, how about Teaching! in 30 Seconds.  You may be aware of a number of contests that have emerged over recent years, most notably, MoveOn’s political commercial contests, and Lafayette, Louisiana’s community campaign  to defeat local telco’s efforts to block community telecommunications initiatives.

What if someone (ISTE, ThinkQuest, etc.) were to organize a contest, asking schools to produce a 30 second commercial that compellingly illustrates what it is to be a 21st century teacher — honoring the traditional notion of expert conveyor of knowledge, but emphasizing all of the other activities that are necessary to being a successful educator today, planner, manager, collaborator, researcher, content developer, advocate, provocateur, master learner, to mention only a few.

We have to tools to do this.  If we don’t have the skills, here’s a good way to develop them. [Image ((Alatorre, Israel. “Metafoto.” Israfel67’s Photostream. 29 Jun 2007. 16 May 2008 <http://flickr.com/photos/ixbarnix/662658636/>.))]

Just a thought!

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.