What is a Teacher? (Part 1)

Just what is a teacher?

 I thought about this as I was talking with newer teachers and teachers that have been teaching for years. Someone made the comment that Pinterest had ruined teaching. When I asked why, the person said that there are so many "cute and perfect things" on there and it's hard to keep up.  My thought was, "what are we keeping up to?"

As I've been teaching for over 20 years, I've seen a lot of educational change.  I've seen it come full circle as education reformers and teachers recycle old things and ideas into new things.  I'm speaking mostly of curriculum and teaching strategies.  But teaching is a human profession. One that can be quite complicated to explain to the general public.  We can just know ourselves that it is a difficult job but one that reaps so many gifts to the heart that it is worth the hard work.

Way back in the day... when teaching as we know it first began, students of all grades were schooled in a one room school house.  The teacher needed to be strict to run the classroom and the idea at the time was that children should be obedient and work hard. 

As teachers and parents, we still value obedience but perhaps not with that word (please do as you are told) and hard work (do your best printing).  But why is it that these two things can be so difficult to reinforce these days? Just what are the roles of the teacher in classrooms today?  What is a teacher?
Whether your classroom looks like this:

 Or this: (this is my 2013-2014 classroom)

or this:

...students are children and teachers are adults. Just like they have always been.  The difference today is that the world is changing.  What is also different is that we know we need to teach the WHOLE child and not just curriculum.

Technology, tv, social media and highly publicized sports heroes and movie stars are a part of everyone's world like never before. Students are so savvy with technology and with language and understanding of things that we have always felt were "adult" things.  but that doesn't mean that teachers cannot embrace the changes, maintain the foundation of a quality education and teach each day so that the students and the teacher are happy and productive.

As teachers, we are many things to our students.  You know the roles: teacher, nurse, counsellor, social worker and so on... instead of feeling pressure and complaining about all of the roles we have, I think that if we viewed education as educating the whole child, we would see our role as completely less overwhelming and potentially more rewarding.

Social responsibility curriculum is finally catching up in many areas of the education world.  We are beginning to understand that social and emotional learning and becoming responsible citizens are very important to the education of the child. We realize that physical development and taking learning breaks are just as important as the academic.  We are seeing the whole child.

So what is a teacher in the modern day sense of the world?

A teacher can be defined today as an educated and dedicated professional who teaches and nurtures the whole child or adolescent. An effective teacher is one that can effectively teach students of varying abilities and meet their academic as well as social and emotional needs so that the students become socially responsible.   A great way to do this is through having students learn based on their passions and talents.  A teacher who can do this while reinforcing mutual respect within the classroom encourages all  learners to grow and thrive and feel that their learning is important and valued.

I would love to hear from you and what strategies and ideas you have for teaching the whole child. Does your school district embrace social and emotional learning and social responsibility?

Stay tuned for the next post in this two part series.  Part 2 will cover strategies to help teachers effectively teach the "whole' child.

(Font credits: KG Fonts, Hello Fonts)


  1. I'm curious; what do you see as the legal basis for the "whole child" approach? How does teaching the whole child intersect with custody of the child?

    1. That's an interesting question Karin and I'm not sure there is a legal basis. I just know that students come to me each year needing more than just how to read and add. It's nice to be able to provide a supportive environment for them as they develop into future citizens of our society. :)

    2. Thanks Shelley. Yes, there does seem to be a lot of room for uncertainty.


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