Posted by: crudbasher | January 15, 2013

Who Can Be A Teacher?

I’m not sure how many friends I will win with this post. Before I start, I want to make clear that I greatly respect the job teachers are asked to do. In fact, it’s practically impossible and the fact that kids learn anything at all is due to the teacher’s hard work. So keep that in mind… 🙂

(cc) Wikimedia commons

(cc) Wikimedia commons

Last year during the Union struggles in Wisconsin, I heard a lot of talk from the teachers unions about how teachers should be treated as professionals like doctors and lawyers. I agree they are professionals in the sense that they are paid to do a specific job. That is the difference between professional and amateur right?

Even so, I don’t think teachers aren’t on the same level as doctors and lawyers. Do this little thought experiment: can somebody from off the street operate successfully on a patient? Definitely not. Ok then, can a person from off the street teach a child something new? Probably yes.

This idea that a certified and trained teacher is the only one who can teach a child new things is a fairly new concept in society. I think it arose with mass public education about 100 years ago but if you look at history, children would learn from a variety of sources in their community (including a schoolteacher). Perhaps their greatest source of knowledge though was their parents and families.

Can a great teacher be made or are they born? I believe that technology is going to tell us that answer shortly.

Udacity, the online massive open online course platform has issued a call for professionals from every field to become teachers. From their press release: (H/T Edudemic)

“Imagine what we could accomplish if every expert shared his or her knowledge with the world,” said Eren Bali, Udemy co-founder and chief executive officer. “Online instructors are now teaching millions of people around the world. But there are so many more subjects that students want to learn. We’re calling upon every expert to join us and teach the next generation, starting this year.”

This follows one of my characteristics of the way we will learn in the future:

Everyone will be both a student and teacher. (see more here)

This also closely follows my theory that the Internet will empower the creative. (much more here)

This does not mean the end of teachers. It does mean the end of the very wasteful way the current system works and the start of the new golden age where every student gets what they need to develop to their fullest potential.

I believe all this because I am an optimist!



  1. We believe all this because, in addition to being optimists, we are REALISTS.

  2. I see a small flaw in your examples. The problem is with the word “successfully.” I’m neither a lawyer or a surgeon, but I’m sure that, to some degree, on some topics, I can provide advice for legal matters that would be correct and/or practice minor surgery, poorly, and still be relatively successful. In the same vein, anyone can teach someone something. I can “teach” a visitor how to get from one location in my city to another, but what have they really learned and is what they learned going to help them grow and develop?

    Your statement suggests that anyone can be a teacher, and you are not wrong. However, you are confusing “Professional Educator,” commonly referred to as “Teacher” with “teacher” someone who teaches someone something.

    The difference is that the professional educator, like lawyers and surgeons, are trained not only in an overarching generalization to their specific craft, but the are experts in their content areas (like lawyers who specialize in criminal law or surgeons that focus only with the brain). They are also specifically instructed and are skilled to deal with all the randomness that comes up when practicing their craft. No two days are ever the same. There is always something new and/or different from yesterday. A Teacher’s job is far more complex than just spewing out information and hoping it sticks. It includes dealing with many different personalities, learning styles, levels of understanding and abilities…. The list is endless as is their drive to make sure they do everything to make sure a student gets “it.” These are just a few things that differentiate a “Teacher” from a “teacher.”

    A Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) will certainly teach students something and the MOOC platform will be relatively successful in doing so. For those that learn from “teaching,” this format will work. However, there are and will continue to be masses of students, of all ages, that need Teachers. For you to suggest teachers and Teachers are the same is insulting and demonstrates either a lack of understanding of what a Teacher is or a choice to disregard what a Teacher is in order to support your point regardless of how respectful you suggest you are.

    • Hi Mike,

      Thank you very much for commenting in such a thoughtful way. I never claim to always be right and so I am pleased to listen to contrary viewpoints.

      In the close of your missive you gave two possibilities for my erroneous positions; either I had a lack of understanding, or I was deliberately disregarding what a Teacher is. Well, like most people I went through public schooling so I’ve seen things from a child’s perspective. I also taught 2 classes a month in college for 11 years, have been a faculty trainer and have a Masters degree in Education Technology so perhaps we can eliminate lack of understanding as a possibility. If you thought I was being deliberately obtuse I doubt you would have taken the time to write your long response, so how about we just allow for a third possibility that I am wrong in good faith?

      I think you laid out in good detail what a Teacher does in a classroom today and I agree with your description, however I think a fundamental change in the role of a teacher happens when you move online. Just curious, have you ever taught online?

      When you teach online, most of the issues of classroom management (which a classroom teacher must focus a lot of time on) goes away. This allows a much more individual approach to education because the software platform takes care of a lot of the stuff a Teacher would have been trained on and they can focus more on the subject matter. I believe that online technology will permit everyday people to be teachers because it will be able to monitor the student’s progress and provide guidance on learning styles.

      You can see examples of technology providing a framework online.I didn’t have to write this blog platform to be able to write my work. Spellchecker software helps writers become better. Google helps us find out facts we didn’t know. Technology is an enabler and helps expand the human potential. I don’t believe there is anything magical about Teachers that can’t be partially replaced by technology in order to enable others to be teachers too. It’s easier to take a subject matter expert and make them an online teacher, than it is to take a Teacher and make them an equivalent subject matter expert. For people who are already great Teachers in their classrooms, technology will expand their reach to become amazing teachers to many more people online. So I think the future is bright for learning, it’s just not that bright for the current factory school system.

      Thank you very much for commenting and I look forward to your response!

    • Your comment sounds a lot like credentialism…. did you know someone removed an appendix on a ship at sea, with no experience… just some help and a medical manual… theres a lot of castes out there who want to be called ” experts”.
      John Taylor Gatto, teacher of the year in nyc said ” anyone who wants to teach shld be able to teach”.

      If you have a passion for your subject, classroom management etc can be learnt. Its often learnt on the job anyway.

      • All great points! Society somehow managed to function without everyone being credentialed for every little thing.

  3. I am struck with a question as I write this and I think this is the catalyst for my initial reply to your post. When you mentioned that anyone off the street could teach a child something, my thoughts focused on primary and secondary education students. As I review your reply, however, your mention of college classes leads me to believe your intended focus was about post-secondary students. Given this let’s, for the moment, table our discussion until we can establish the age group to which you are referring. I have comments to make, but without establishing this key point, I worry that I will become wrapped up in moot point.

  4. Hey Mike,

    I am referring to college and beyond mostly. While I can see doing individual online learning in high school, I have a hard time seeing how to really replace the K-6 experience yet. There is something to be said for learning how to function in a group at a young age.

    Does that clarify things? I am keen to hear your thoughts!

    • Ive worked with teachers. My brother who is an engineer and has no formal ” educational” pseudo credentials could teach math better than mostath teachers.

  5. If teachers want to be treated like plumbers, dentists etc then they shld have a sign on the street and attract people by their enthusiasm and teaching ability. Like dance classes or gyms.

    The fact that they are in a personality smothering union is not a good start. Im an outdoor educator and i dont need a union to order me around and ” protect ” me.

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