How the Role of the Teacher is Changing

If you want to read about the role of a teacher, and not be offended, you can find plenty of people and organizations that will agree with your point of view. If you want to debate, there are plenty of different opinions about just exactly what a teacher’s role is. Teachers have had to wear many hats over the past decades, and change has been the norm.

Depending on how far back in American history you go, teachers have evolved from being instructors to facilitator for the learning process. However, there was a time when the teacher was guidance counselor, teacher of life lessons, and often a moral compass for wayward students, along with being the instructor of a curriculum. The task was never easy, but has never been so difficult as it is today.

“Today is a more complex and demanding role than it has ever been. State-mandated testing requirements, increased paperwork to document student progress, integrating technology into the classroom, and meeting the federal No Child Left Behind requirements all require more time and effort from teachers than ever before.” Many teachers are now being assigned to teach outside of their learned field of study. While becoming more accountable for student grades and behavior, the amount of paperwork that is required of them is multiplying rapidly. The increased mandates to offer more resources for the students is causing teachers to have to work longer hours for tutoring and planning.

When the teachers were considered to be instructors or presenters of information, students were looked upon as consumers of facts. Today, “Students aren’t consumers of facts. They are active creators of knowledge.” The information that is presented to students is the foundation for discovery. Students don’t get to just learn, they must produce new knowledge if society is to continue to grow and make positive progress. This is also a heavy weight on the shoulders of teachers; cultivating the creative side of students.

“…aren’t just brick-and-mortar structures – they’re centers of lifelong learning.” Schools used to be built to house students, teachers and staff. Now, school buildings are built around, and designed for the many and various learning activity that will take place within them.

“And, most important, [some would say] teaching is recognized as one of the most challenging and respected career choices, absolutely vital to the social, cultural, and economic health of our nation.” Because of the ever-changing requirements on teachers, a teaching career may demand far more than any normal person can produce.

The role of teachers has been transformed and in many cases went unnoticed. One speaker said, “The transformation of the role of teachers has already taken place and by the time we realize it the transformation has become the norm.”  He is saying that far too often change comes from upper administration or even government groups, is implemented and already in place before it is even recognized as a change. That is kind of like the frog in a pan of water that is slowly increasing in temperature, and will eventually kill the frog.  

The following paragraphs are short comments and videos that speak of the more personal role that teachers have with students as a result of technological changes.

In the following video, Marc Pernsky made the observation that the role of teacher has gone “from the information giver to the “Partner, coach, and guide.”  This places the teacher along the side of the student to encourage and motivate learning, and the production of evidence of that learning.  

Somewhat in agreement with the statement above by Marc Prensky, Sugata Mitra states that teachers can best fill their role when they “frame the right question.” He says that the right question will spark the thinking and creative processes in students. That translates in the student entering the world of knowledge on the Internet, and producing supportive information for his response to the question. He states that technology has certainly produced major change in the role of teachers.

“…are not vessels to be filled, but rather fires to be lit.” This comment, by Phillip Schlechty, points to an ever personal role that the teachers either are or will be filling in the classroom. This seems to bring us back to the time “back in the day,” when “the teacher was guidance counselor, teacher of life lessons, and often a moral compass for wayward students, along with being the instructor of a curriculum.”