One of the things that I’m involved in is teacher training. In particular, my focus is generally early childhood education, so I’ve focused more of my time and effort on teachers or care providers at that level. However, I do look at the training needs of other teachers as well from time to time, as well as the training needs for lecturers too. In this day and age of modern technology and especially with the advent of the internet and search engines like Google, the role of the teacher has changed, whether they know it, or like it, or not.
In a sense, in early childhood, we do not “teach” the children in our care. Rather, we nurture their development. The simplest meaning of this is that kids will learn on their own, we just need to make sure that they learn the right things by guiding them and giving them the right environment to do their “learning”.
Now, this isn’t a new concept, it’s something that early childhood practitioners have been doing for a long time. Having said that, I have seen some places where they do try to “teach”, rather than nurture. I honestly believe that’s a sign of a poor-quality centre. In their very brief defence though, when asked about this, they usually say that it’s because of parents’ demands. (More on this another time)
The role of a teacher today, like in early childhood, is to nurture the students in their care. Simple reason is this, we all develop at our own pace. Yes, there are developmental milestones, and that does give a general indicator of where someone stands, but the fact remains, we do develop at our own pace. We are good at some things, and not others.
The second reason of a teacher needing to change is the fact that they are no longer the custodians of knowledge. 20 years ago, to learn something new, you had to ask the teacher or lecturer or go to the library and search. Today, all you need to do is search online and you’ll find an answer in seconds. So what’s the point of the teacher? To guide the kids, and to teach them how to do research, how to tell what is right and what’s fake (especially in this era of fake news).
Finally, a teacher needs to be a role model on learning. There is no possible way that any single person knows everything about anything. A teacher needs to constantly learn new things, just as a child is constantly learning new things as well. If the teacher shows to be closed-off to new ideas, that is a lesson that the children will carry on to adulthood as well.
One of the pitfalls of being a teacher today is also related to the fact that information is so east to get. There’s every possibility that one day, your student will correct you on something because they’ve already read about it or watched a video online. It’s part of the paradigm shift that teachers have to accept.
An interesting approach for teachers to look at now is co-learning, where it’s not just between the students, but also with the teacher. Could it undermine the teachers supposed authority? Perhaps, but if teachers accept the fact that their role has changed, then perhaps these traditional power structures need to be re-assessed as well and new rules for the classroom should be developed.