The entrepreneurs

Amid the current school funding cyclone, Naplan, international comparisons of our schools performance and students grilling the PM on national television, too often, there has been little discussion on the role of the teacher in today’s world. I believe this discourse is central to school improvement.

I only wish that we could step back and look afresh at the work good teachers need to do in a knowledge age. I hope I’m not alone in believing that we need to re-think the role of the teacher.  

Socrates used the metaphor of teacher as the midwife at the birth of knowledge.  Is this metaphor still relevant?  If so, what happened in the industrial age when instead of overseeing the birth of knowledge, teachers became owners and transmitters of that information?

Or is this more a question of what value we place on information vs knowledge?  Have we come full circle from the attainment of knowledge in ancient Greece to the transmission of information in the industrial age to the creation of knowledge in today’s world?

Can the role of a teacher remain the same but the context change? Is everything old somehow new again?

Parker Palmer claims “good teachers are able to weave a complex web of connections between themselves, their subjects, and their students, so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves.”  This quote resonates with Elmore’s instructional core and the premise that good teaching is the relationship between the teacher, the student and the content.

There are two areas that I see as critical.  The first is what is the content and whose content?  The real learning lies not just in remembering content but applying and creating it. The concept that students and teacher work together in this process provides a  window into how we might see the work of a contemporary teacher. That students can construct their own learning is a bridge too far for some but this should be the end point.

The second is re-conceptualising the work of teaching.  It’s time to retire the old descriptors of teacher as sage on the stage, guide on the side, meddler in the middle etc.  These do little justice to the complexity of good teaching.

I have begun to think about re-defining teachers as entrepreneurs. In a recent Forbes article on re-defining entrepreneurship, the definition of entrepreneur is seen as the ” innate mindset of a person who sees opportunities and pursues them.”  This is what the role of a teacher in today’s world – they are professionals who take calculated risks using good data and research.  They understand that being professional means being accountable and responsible.  They create networks to build collective knowledge and are willing to share that knowledge with beginning teachers. Perhaps one of the most distinguishing features is an inherent understanding that learning and teaching is dynamic – it requires new sets of inter-dependencies and understandings of learners and their technology.  

Is this how you see the role of teachers in today’s world?

4 thoughts on “The entrepreneurs

  1. Hi Greg,
    Do you think that the National Professional Standards for Teachers is agile enough to accurately and positively reflect the role of the teacher today?
    My fear is that there is a general confusion between learning and performance, and that only through measuring performance can we see learning and therefore account for the impact of the teacher.
    I believe AITSL have established sound and admirable standards for teachers at various stages of their career/role – I’m a New Scheme Teacher who needs to try and live up to them – but is there a need for wider education of society on the impact of teachers beyond performance so that they feel truly free to be entrepreneurs?
    Have a great week,

    1. Matt,I don’t think they are agile enough, then again I don’t think that we will ever get a comprehensive and exhaustive list of Standards. I think of them as a step in the right direction and that it must be an iterative process. I also think they need to be much simpler. As we redefine what it is to be a teacher in today’s world, then we naturally need to change the criteria.

  2. I just came across your article and agree with retiring some of those teacher descriptors. My own teacher training was in the 1990’s so “guide on the side” was hammered into us as we were mostly taught ourselves by the “sage on the stage” teachers in the 70s and 80s. I like the image of an entrepreneur, but for me that has more a teacher goal centric sound to it. Being a sports fan the ‘guide on the side’ reminds me of parents during their kids game – advising from afar but not able to actually guide. The coach though is more connected. They have journeyed with the player, with the team, invested in skill development, discussed goals, analysed data to influence decisions, assessed and evaluated, identified and communicated strengths. Sometimes a coach dictates what the player does and sometimes that just let them go for it on their own. I really like to see the teacher’s role as more a learning coach than an entrepreneur.

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