Teachers, Coaches or Guides?

Wednesday 29 Aug

I’m not a fan of the word teacher in the primary school setting. Firstly, it implies that a person is the holder and distributor of knowledge. Secondly, it shines a greater light on teaching than on learning. (Teaching v learning – now that’s another whole article in itself!)

I think words that better describe the work of our teachers are coach or guide.

Think back to your own schooling. What were your most memorable learning experiences? What were those experiences that stuck with you well beyond your schooling years? Are they those ‘chalk and talk’ moments where a teacher delivered a message and told you what’s what? Or are they those times when you were in the driver’s seat? Those times where someone asked a question that challenged you and made you deeply ponder? Or maybe those times when you set out to uncover a truth or mistruth? Or perhaps those times you were able to construct meaning for yourself through genuine experiences?

We know from copious studies, that having knowledge poured into our heads through a funnel from a teacher typically has minimal, if any, long-term effect. Bona fide learning happens through experience, through trial and error, through persistence and through engagement and empowerment.

The real job of a teacher is not to impart all knowledge but to expose enough holes in our knowledge to inspire curiosity. Justin Tarte

The best teachers are those who show you where to look but don’t tell you what to see. Alexandra K Trenfor

The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery. Mark van Doren

Kids can’t learn to think if we keep telling them what to think. The most important thing that we can do… is ask really hard questions and then step back. Tierney Kennedy

The gardener does not make a plant grow.The job of a gardener is to create optimal conditions for growth.Ken Robinson

Our teachers are skilled in developing units of work that provide opportunity for children to maintain curiosity through exploration, discovery and experiential tasks. They guide students through a well-crafted series of experiences that help children to make authentic connections and to build on their prior learning. Rather than teaching at students, our teachers journey alongside them; guiding them, coaching them, stepping back at times and stepping forward at other times, allowing mistakes, redirecting when required, shepherding towards reflection, acknowledging accomplishments, … ‘teaching’ is quite a refined art!

Students are the heros in this approach – and they are the drivers. But take note: our teachers aren’t curled up in the backseat of the car – they’re right there alongside each student, journeying with them.

I opened by saying I’m not a fan of the word teacher in the primary school setting. Don’t get me wrong – the word is here to stay at Living Faith at least for the foreseeable future. However, when you think of our teachers, think of them less as people standing in front of a group of children prattling off facts to a bunch of glazed-over eyes. Rather, think of our teachers as people who are coaching and guiding your child from the passenger seat, as your child takes the wheel.

- Jane Mueller