Posts Tagged ‘educator’
Last week I reflected on the first world problem of deciding whether one was a teacher on an educator.
Judging from the hits this post received, it seems to have struck a nerve or tapped the pulse of teachers/educators.
I still think that it is important to make a distinction between a teacher and an educator as well as what each does. So I have consolidated some of my thoughts on the differences between the two.
- Everyone can teach. Few can educate.
- A teacher teaches; an educator reaches.
- A teacher typically focuses on curriculum and assessment. An educator focuses on development and evaluation.
- In the curricular race, a teacher perspires. In the journey of lifelong learning, an educator inspires. (An educator goes the extra mile.)
- A teacher works with content. An educator deals with people.
- Teaching is a job. Educating is a calling.
- Some teachers do this to earn. Educators do this to learn (about themselves, their learners, better ways to inspire, etc).
- A teacher might network locally. An educator is connected globally (and thinks and acts that way too).
Unlike the photo I used to represent the distinction and the dichotomy of my phasing, I do not think that teaching and educating are mutually exclusive. Like the symbol, I think one blends into the other. But I do think that teachers need to aspire to be educators.
Sources of inspiration:
I follow @FiWoProblems (First World Problems) on Twitter because there are funny and often trivial 140-character-or-less truths about the modern world.
Recently I experienced my own first world problem and it reminded me of why I chose to be an educator instead of a teacher.
A standing fan in my dining room went into its death throes and I bought a replacement. Rather than throw the old one away, I thought I would be responsible and recycle it.
I offered it to a karang guni (“rag and bone”) man, but he rejected it and asked if I had a computer or television to recycle instead!
Karang guni men used to collect things like newspapers. A few still do. But there is a shift in behaviour that has followed the shift in values.
Only high-value items seem to be worth the time and effort of the collectors. The value of recycling has become less important than making a profit!
There already is a scary parallel shift in values in schooling. I am talking about the shift from the values of education to hot-housing kids to stay ahead and teaching to the test (and only the test).
I stopped being a classroom teacher at the end of 1998 so that I could become an educator. I am not saying that a teacher must leave a schooling system to be an educator. I am saying that you might get more time and space to learn to be an educator if you do.
I tried being as educator while I was a teacher by not just focusing on the curricular race, examinations, and grades. I used to expand the horizons of students by bringing them out on field trips, enriching their learning by using technology, and spending time talking about life.
After I left, a former student told me that a teacher who took over told my class that I had taught them the wrong things. If educating my students about the right things is teaching them the wrong things, then my conscience is clear.
Some folks do not care if there is a distinction between a teacher and educator. Some do not have the luxury of thinking this way.
I think that it is important to have a first world problem of deciding whether or not you are a teacher or an educator. There are deeper value systems under those labels that manifest themselves when you are teaching or educating.
On the lighter side of things, here are some other first world problems you might relate to…
I am retelling a short story that our Dean told at an exco meeting last Friday. The example is old-school, but the principle is timeless.
A man spotted two lumberjacks trying to cut a tree down with a saw. He noticed that they were putting a lot of effort into the task, but they were getting nowhere.
He also noticed that the blade was not sharp. The man pointed that out to the lumberjacks and suggested that they stop for a while to sharpen the blade.
The lumberjacks replied, “No, we cannot stop. We are too busy! We have to keep going with our job!”
What is the moral of the story? There is more than one.
One takeaway might be: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Better to be prepared than to simply react.
Another is that it is wiser to stop, reflect, and modify one’s practice instead of doing things the same old and ineffective way.
But those morals deal with the method or strategy. There are also newer tools that are more efficient and effective.
In the context of the story, each lumberjack could have used a chainsaw. The chainsaw is more efficient and powerful and it leads to more productive work.
But in addition to learning a new strategy, the lumberjacks would have to learn how to use a new tool.
Educators must stop, reflect, and learn how to use new tools and strategies.
If they stop long enough, teachers and lumberjacks might also wonder if their jobs are still relevant. Only then can they find ways to stay relevant.
After watching this video, I learnt that knowledge in the past was viewed and organized in a tree-like manner. Information and knowledge now is more like rhizomes, networks, or webs.
It might be tempting to conclude that generalists or modern Renaissance folks should fare better than specialists. Far more important is the mindset of being able to learn from, or to make connections with, seemingly disparate concepts.
For me, this is another difference between teachers and educators. Teachers are told that they must be good in their content areas. They must tend to their trees.
Educators, on the other hand, know that this is not good enough. They must network and develop like rhizomes or be a node in an intelligent and ever shifting collective.
We mark Teachers’ Day in Singapore today. It is a school holiday and some schools have appreciation dinners and celebrations the day before. Newspapers do the obligatory articles on teachers and flower shops mark up their wares.
Many thanks to CeL staff for the surprise Teachers' Day party. Can't believe they pulled another one on me the 2nd year in a row!—
Ashley Tan (@ashley) September 01, 2011
It is the one time in the year we take the trouble to appreciate our teachers. I guess that is why the staff at CeL “ambushed” me with a cake and why a group in my MLS118 class sent me an e-card.
It feels nice to be appreciated, of course. But like some educators, I didn’t answer the call to get cards and gifts once a year. We have birthdays and Christmas for that!
If anyone asks, I like to tell them that I was probably born to be a teacher, but I learnt to become an educator. In fact, I am still learning to become one.
My parents were teachers. My wife is a teacher. I was a school teacher and I used to teach (read that as lecture) a lot.
I think that a teacher plans, delivers and grades content. A teacher juggles, monitors and disciplines. A teacher does as best as s/he can with unnecessary administrative tasks.
But an educator is a learner first. An educator does not let teaching get in the way of learning. An educator connects the dots and connects with people. An educator is focused not on academic results but on attitudes and values.
The newspapers that publish articles about great teachers are really describing educators. I don’t think that it is a matter of semantics. It is a practical world view.
We used to need 20th century teachers. But in an age of rapidly growing, evolving and readily accessible information, and one where technology challenges policies, value systems and belief systems, we need 21st century educators instead.
Some time ago, I mentioned that a teacher was not necessarily an educator. One visitor to my blog asked me what the difference was between “teacher” and “educator”.
I think most people would use the terms interchangeably. I don’t. So I thought I’d add to what I said in reply to that visitor…
A teacher probably sees him/herself as a content expert. Teachers do their jobs, do as they are told and may even be very passionate about it. Nothing wrong with that.
But an educator is a learner first, not just for the sake of learning new content but also one who learns about learning. An educator seeks not to be a content expert but a learning expert. You can teach, but your students may not learn; you need not teach in the traditional sense and your students might learn anyway. An educator learns about, from and with students.
While a teacher might attempt to fill the minds of students or prepare them for exams, an educator knows that s/he must also change mindsets. An educator emphasizes values and attitudes alongside knowledge and skills. An educator tries to prepare students for the on-going exam of life.
An educator does not attempt to provide all the right answers. An educator models how to ask creative and critical questions and how to seek answers to those questions.
So are you a teacher or an educator?
Andrew Churches suggests some skills that a 21st century educator needs to survive. The list is a good start point but it probably isn’t a surprise to anyone actively sensing our environment. Most employers nowadays might require the same skills of their workers.
What strikes me about the list is its not-quite-21st-century format. In particular, I think that the photos used as examples for the skills pale in comparison to a more current and engaging YouTube video of what education professionals might need to do.
That said, the list is something that is easier to extract information from. But it is not rich in terms of content and it does not necessarily bring across the values or attitudes required of the educator quite like the video does. The skill sets in conceptualising and creating the video as well as interpreting it are far more valuable now and in the future.
To put it another way, evaluating the list requires traditional and information literacies. Creating and interpreting the video requires those skills as well as digital and media literacies.
Footnote: This entry is not intended to attack Churches or his ideas. They are timely and relevant. This is my way of adding to the emerging pool of knowledge on what we might consider to be 21st century skills.