"The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery," said Mark Van Doren. That's probably one of the best definitions of modern teaching that's out there.
There are so many misconceptions about teachers and about the education profession that it can be hard to get on top of all of them. It would be great to assist everyone in discovering the true nature of the teacher's role.
Teachers are leaders, nurturers, enablers, and guides towards discovery. In many ways, the digital age is a time of uncertainty. Despite this teachers are called upon every day to be certain, and that's a tall order for anyone.
The truth is sometimes people outside the profession have a hard time seeing what it really entails. People who aren't educators must come to understand the nobility and perseverance it takes to be one in an ever-changing world.
If you are a teacher or administrator, hopefully this will reinforce the truth of that for you. Here we address four of the most common misconceptions about teachers.
1. Those Who Can't, Teach
“Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” This quote is from George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman. Whether intended as a harmless jab or not, it’s still just plain untrue.
Teachers are not simply passionate specialists in one or two chosen fields; their list of base skills includes many other studies.
They require knowledge in educational psychology, interpersonal communications, and classroom management.
They need emergency response training, depending on where they may work.
They know budgeting, technology implementation, pedagogical theory, and the list goes on.
All of this education continues throughout their entire career.
In addition to all of this, teachers take recertification training and skill upgrades and continuing professional development courses. How many of us can say the same?
It’s safe to say that "doing" is what they’re known for.
2. Teachers Despise Technology
This is not true at all—in fact, it’s the opposite. More and more, today's teachers are embracing all the ways technology enhances teaching and learning. When it comes to our digital students, teachers see technology as a game everybody wins.
Granted, it hasn’t come easily and the learning curves can be steep. Technology wasn’t always met with open arms. That’s mostly because technology and its benefits are often misunderstood in education.
The digital age is a time of uncertainty in which teachers are called upon every day to be certain.
More and more teachers are discovering just how fun and beneficial technology can be. Our teachers care, and make no mistake, they are up for tech in classrooms.
Learning and using technology takes time and patience. It’s about careful immersion, practice, and guidance. It means making a plan and asking the right questions. It takes listening to the experience of others, especially students. It takes a desire to connect with kids on personal as well as educational levels.
3. Teachers Have Plenty of Time
Time, unfortunately, is the enemy of all teachers. What they have to accomplish in a single day is mind-blowing. Teachers, like parents, have multitasking down to an unconscious science.
A teacher’s professional and also personal time is spent on things like:
- preparing lessons
- grading projects
- making schedules
- attending PD sessions
- talking to parents
- answering emails
- managing student conflicts
- conferring with colleagues and administrators
- learning about technology
Summers are also mostly out of reach for our teachers. Those precious few months off are spent on planning, planning, and more planning for the approaching year. When the butts are back in their seats, teachers need to be ready. They must find a way to engage and inspire kids who are largely still on mental vacation.
Any teacher will tell you that this is challenging. They'll tell you something else. though—seeing kids aspire to discover and create meaningful knowledge is worth the effort.
What teachers are expected to accomplish in a single average day is mind-blowing.
4. Teachers Just Recycle the Same Lessons
Teachers today know that the digital generation is different. Not only that, but every single student is different. That means different interests, learning speeds, needs, and challenges. No longer is school about teaching to the crowd. Now it’s about nurturing the individual.
Differentiated learning is about tailor-made instruction to suit the needs of an individual. This is how teaching becomes dynamic and flexible. Learners respond to this kind of teaching because it changes and evolves like they do.
When writing lesson plans, you need to connect to curriculum, design essential questions, and create challenging projects. Students need something to strive for that will develop skills for living successful and happy lives. This isn’t a lesson that comes from any textbook, either; it has to come from the mind and heart of a passionate teacher.
They also have to be adaptable in their areas of curriculum. They’re teaching mathematics one semester, but then history or physical education the next. Switches like these happen all the time in education. It requires the multi-talented educator to think on their feet and get creative quickly.
Most everyone has a teacher who truly made a difference in their life. Who is your teacher hero, and why? What made this educator add such a memorable picture to the book of your own life?
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2017 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Sept 10, 2021, updated October 12, 2021