What does it mean to be a teacher? In trying to define education and taking into account the previous two posts to this, the concept of teacher needs some thought. At a basic level a teacher might be defined as someone who teaches. But in turn, what does it mean to teach?
A simple definition from Merriam-Webster is:
This suggests that teaching as a process is not only carried out by qualified individuals in formal education, but by most people given the right context. This means that children might teach children, adults can teach children and children can teach adults. The reasons for teaching and the form of teaching may also take many forms as the aims, processes and ongoing results of teaching may all be different.
Therefore, we might say that most people have a natural capacity to teach, to explain things to each other, to demonstrate something or to help someone become more expert at a given process. In this sense, most people, at a very simple level, might be thought of as teachers. However, are most people the same as those teachers who work in formal settings like schools.
We can think of teaching as being a collection of processes within a spectrum. Most people teach in informal settings, often helping only a single other person, sometimes as part of a group. The settings also tend to be focused on a specific skill or area of knowledge. This might be a child teaching another child how to overcome a problem in a video game, or an adult showing and then observing another individual as they hang wallpaper for the first time. At the other end of the spectrum are teachers in formal educational settings.
Professional teachers tend to operate in a very different context, one where they have to teach larger groups of individuals at the same time; they need to develop and/or follow a set curriculum; most often they have to assess learning in some way. Due to these facets of formal teaching, the processes involved are more complex and interconnected than in informal settings, and hence a greater level of understanding and expertise is needed relating to the action of teaching. Therefore, qualified teachers are separated from others who teach in that they take an explicit interest in how to teach, and how to relate teaching to other processes such as learning, curriculum development, child development, assessment approaches, etc. The process of teaching is also at the core of their activity, and often becomes part of their identity as professionals.
We often see teaching as a defined set of processes taking place in formal educational contexts. In thinking about how we characterise and define education, we have to see teaching as a holistic set of processes which occur in many different contexts, and which focus on many different foci for learning. However, we also have to differentiate between qualified teachers and informal teachers based on the degree to which they engage with conscious development and increasing expertise as teachers, particularly when working with learners in formal educational contexts.
This is a blog which hopes to explore and navigate a different way of doing education