What’s a teacher, anyway?

Today I listened to a guy starts telling, just briefly what a teacher is. He said they were a person that did something special in the life of a young person, something really good that went beyond their subject area. I can’t tell you exactly what he said because I can’t remember, but the general impression I got was that for him a teacher really was someone besides a person who conveyed general knowledge.

Now, this was news to me. Sort of.

It is interesting though to learn what other people think my job is.

Because somehow I got the idea that the main thrust of my job was to teach stuff. If my job is to win a popularity contest, to be young people’s best friend, to lift them up and to be something special in each of their lives, err, how is it that I missed that part in my training?

I do think it is every teachers job to believe in, have confidence in, to be friendly towards, to be a positive influence the lives of kids. But even though I am confident that I do that as task number one every day, I know that there are enough kids who would be happy if I just taught them something they didn’t know before. They don’t want me as their role model, they just want to get through the day.

Yes I start every day with a smile. I start every day with a sense that I am there as a positive person in their lives. I know that. I make it a point to be sure that I am the one who always believes in their abilities regardless of their test scores. That is not always easy to do. But am I the inspiration of a lifetime for every kid that walks through my door? Well, wouldn’t that be nice?

So it is interesting to hear other people’s take on what my job ought to be. It would be helpful to know the parent’s ideas on what I should be to their kids. But only up to a point.

I consider one of my mentor teachers. There would be no kid of hers that lauded her as a huge inspiration. But did she teach them Spanish? Heck ya. She was amazingly efficient in this area. Skilled, organized. She handed every paper back the day after it was handed in. She knew where they would be at any point in the year regardless of what book or what level she taught. She had been doing it for 30 years. Would she be the one that students confided in? Definitely not. Was she warm and fuzzy? No. Did the kids talk to her outside the class? Um, no. Was she a teacher par excellence? Well she was voted teacher of the year in Oregon. So who knows what a teacher is.

any ideas?

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Natalie says:

    I think if there was one recipe for what a teacher is–it would be easy to evaluate who is and who isn’t good. Each teacher has their style and their backers. I have students who hate me for one reason and I have others who love me for the very same reason. A teacher reaches a few. Hopefully someone out of the other 50+ teachers they will have between kindergarten and high school graduation can reach them if it isn’t me. Placing this level of responsibility on teachers reaching and making a difference in each child takes the responsibility off of parents and society in general. That seems like a bad idea to me.

  2. ms. whatsit says:

    I go to work each morning with an every day is a new day attitude. Yeah, I know that’s an AA maxim, but sometimes I wonder if teaching–or should I say dealing with some of the problems that teachers face–is like an unhealthy addiction.

  3. Jeff says:

    Good post, buddy. I have to agree with Natalie. Seems to me that the teaching profession is often romanticized by American society – you know, teachers have a “calling” while the rest of us just have jobs. The unspoken assumption is often that teachers are to be social workers as well as instructors. I can’t help but believe that putting this kind of pressure on teachers often detracts from the primary, singular task at hand which is teaching kids a subject and, in the process, how to be lifelong learners.

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