Just Call Me Teacher

I’ll make this quick.

Just stop it. Stop belittling me. Call me a teacher. I take great pride in that distinction. It is truly an honor to be a part of this vocation. This profession, in my extremely biased opinion, is among the most noble in all of society. It is a privilege to tell others that I am a teacher…that I educate and positively impact my students. So, it bothers me a bit when it is suggested that ‘we’ should change our name. Recently, Edutopia published an article written by an administrator suggesting we instead use the term ‘learning engineer’. Here’s some of the author’s rationale for the change:

“When people hear the word teacher, mental images of their own student experiences often come to mind. In a Google search of the word, 26 out of the first 30 images were of an instructor in traditional teaching mode: standing in front of the class talking, writing, or pointing in front of a chalkboard or whiteboard.

That idea of the teacher as a dispenser of knowledge is not, as we know, what teachers do these days. But because so much tradition and social history are connected to the word teacher, I suggest that we give serious thought to using a different term, one that fully describes what we do as teachers.”

I disagree with a lot of this…a teacher is a dispenser of knowledge…it is what I do these days…we should be the expert in the classroom. But, this is a discussion for another post. 

When I’m told that the profession is changing, kids are changing, and being a ‘teacher’ isn’t enough anymore, I can’t help but take it personally. There is something quite disparaging about this entire idea. Kyle Berry  tweeted this in response to the article:

I can’t think of another profession or trade that would tolerate an article like this. “Rethinking The Doctor’s Role”, “Rethinking The Plumber’s Role”, “Rethinking The Accountant’s Role”. Each one would think a headline like that to be absurd.”

I completely agree. Although there are advances/changes in those professions, no one is clamoring to redefine or lexiconically innovate those sectors…and for good reason. Those professions would laugh at this attempt and simply carry on with their important work. I propose teachers do the same. Let those who wish to profit from useless diversions waste their time…we’ll just carry on with teaching, because it’s what teachers do.

So, in review, here’s a list of things I am not. These are terms/phrases that cheapen and asperse the teaching profession:

Achievement guide

Facilitator of learning

Thought leader

Personalized learning practitioner

Just call me teacher. No term better describes what I do. No term better honors this important profession. No term fills me with a greater sense of pride.

11 thoughts on “Just Call Me Teacher

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  1. Thanks for this post Blake. I have been wondering about the use of the term “teacher” myself, as many have commented that educator is a better word to use. I have also seen Learning engineer and facilitator and some of the others that you mentioned.

  2. Thank You, Blake. Since I had to move from the Classroom to a tiny Office, due to 3 knee surgeries, and started Tutoring Students, I strongly feel I keep being a Teacher. When kids try to call me just by my name, I use to say: I’ m not with you just by myself, I belong to a Teaching Community, you have been entrusted to me as a Teacher. And I’m proud of it. Just call me Teacher.

  3. I wrote a similar article recently regarding the use of language to describe PE/Art/Music teachers. Too often they are referred to as ‘Specials’, and that term separates them from ‘Teachers’, you know, who teach the ‘real’ subjects.
    An excerpt of what I wrote: “Now I’m a sensitive soul and take offense whenever I am described as anything other than a teacher of physical education. It irks me when I am asked if I am a ‘PE Instructor’, I shudder when I am painted as a ‘games teacher’ and heaven forbid you should describe me as a ‘coach’ during curriculum time. Call me ‘gym teacher’ and you’ll have me asking “who’s Jim?”. Admittedly, at my school physical education is referred to as ‘Kinetic Wellness’ but at least I am seen as a KW teacher, and seen on a par with teaching peers of all subjects.”


  4. “As an administrator, I strive to establish that learning is the most important part of a PLC—both for adults and students. The most effective PLCs that I’ve seen follow Richard DuFour’s six pillars of an effective PLC and discuss data on a routine basis to determine the effectiveness of the learning plans.” Guess what this article has zero of? Data.

  5. Not to be too contrary but …
    What Is a 21st-Century Doctor? Rethinking the Significance of the Medical Degree
    ten Cate, Olle, PhD
    Academic Medicine: July 2014 – Volume 89 – Issue 7 – p 966–969

    The reality is that internet, technology and the age of information has changed everything. Whatever type of dispenser of know ledge you are, I can with in a few clicks I (and your students) find more and deep information on anything you can present. You job has changed. Through Kahn Academy alone I can learn most of you have to offer (the rest I can get for free from Harvard and Stanford). The point is that we don’t have all the knowledge (never did) what we offer is context, meaning, clarification, tools to help with filtering. Yes, we are still teachers but if we don’t rethink education, we may soon find ourselves much like the music industry did after the rise of Napster and iTunes.

  6. I deeply agree with our lack of need to find a new term that will define our profession. My question, mostly with myself, is regarding the difference between teacher and educator. In the Israeli school system, we have a distinct role for the homeclass teacher, termed ‘educator’. The role of the educator is, well, to educate. This teacher has overall responsibility for the welbeing of the students, aggregating their educational data, being in touch with parents, etc.
    My issue with this is, that in my view every teacher entering the classroom educates, and not “just” teaches. When we differentiate between teaching and educating, I feel that many teachers don’t see it as their responsibility to educate, but to “just” pass on knowledge. Hence, I sometimes wonder if we wouldn’t be better off calling every teacher an educator, stressing the common responsibility for each and every student.

  7. I am starting to generate real and objective evidence of teacher quality. Yay!!! I can see the skills of teachers. I can see the learning that they create and most importantly, I can see the difference between a trained/experienced teacher and an untrained teacher or ‘lay’ person. Let’s not confuse anyone with any other titles. Let’s generate the evidence that we need to prove ourselves as professionals. Teaching is a science.

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