The Changing Role of Teachers

“Love is a better teacher than duty” (Albert Einstein)

Mr. Einstein was not only a brilliant scientist but a marvelous teacher. Truly, love is a better teacher than duty. This is apparent in every classroom where rigid teachers abide by an orthodox curriculum which focuses only on tasks which must be completed by a certain time.

All great teachers which have ever walked this earth can attest to that being a hindrance in teaching and learning. A concerned educator must initially examine how a person learns and then consider how the academic requirements of present life may be applied and, thus, taught. Consequently, one would surely realize that the role of the teacher has changed over the past 70 years and is still changing.

Gone are the days where all the teacher was required to do was help the student learn to read, write, do arithmetic or take in lecture after lecture. Thanks to technology (from the television to the latest touch phone), children gain knowledge of a great variety much quicker and thus know very much of what school books want to impart to them.

As a result, teachers today are required to be more mentors or guides than instructors; which, by the way, is actually returning to ancient ways of teaching. What does that actually come down to? It comes down to observation and creativity.

But, first a look at what teachers’ duties are broadly believed to be:

Instructing students in various assignments which yield learning

Following the progress of students in a class through testing

Assigning class work and homework to students

Encouraging the students in the learning and participating process

Completing syllabus on time

Maintaining complete record of students

Providing special attention to all weak students

Most school systems around the world place more emphasis on the academic subjects and much less or none at all on the subjects which promote creativity. Sir Ken Robinson (educationalist) is one of those voices, speaking loud and clear, about how sterile education is encumbering the learning and developing process of young learners.

Who is Ken Robinson? Sir Ken Robinson has a PhD and was Director of The Arts in Schools Project (1985-89); he went on to be Professor of Arts Education at the University of Warwick (1989-2001) and in 2003 he was knighted for services to education. In other words, he is a leader (recognized internationally) in the advance of resourcefulness, novelty and human resources in education as well as business.

His talks and books uphold the idea that the role of the teacher as well as the school should be much different from what it is today. Perhaps he sums it best in his two minute YouTube video ‘The art of teaching’. And as other writers and educators confirm, teaching and learning takes place from the moment of birth and in every sector of life.

Every individual is exposed to learning even when that takes place while begging for a few pennies in the street.  Keeping that in mind, one soon realizes that a teacher’s role then is to direct that person towards constructive learning. Indeed teachers’ roles today are more as mentors than anything else.

Modern day society requires and requests for teachers who can inspire, motivate, guide and bring out the best in their students. But isn’t that how it always was? More or less, yes. Those wonderful teachers everyone has kept in their hearts were aware of this and taught this way. Today, however, they are asked to go one step further.

That is, to become technologically intelligent and combine technology with their teaching. Use it to enhance what they want to convey. This is quite tricky as students may easily stray away to other paths which technology presents. Nonetheless, a caring teacher will (in most cases) be able to find a way to keep those students in check. Moreover, a teacher nowadays must involve the parents as well.

Firstly, this will empower the educator by having another adult the child is close to support his/her work. Secondly and perhaps more importantly, the child will be encouraged knowing his parent is genuinely concerned for his progress, so much so that they take out the time to become involved. Teacher-parent cooperation is momentous the world over. In the United States, however, where crime among youngsters is constantly on the rise, it is a significant factor in creating and sustaining a sound and compassionate society.

Thus, it is safe to say that a teacher’s role today is constantly changing and is much more complex than in the past. Not only is the teacher called on to help students learn more through observation (as in ancient times), but through hands on activities using modern technology. Through all of this, the educator is required to maintain a healthy balance between students, parents and school. A mighty tall task which can be carried out only by those who truly love teaching but mostly, those who love children.