What is a teacher? What is a student?
From a certain perspective, teachers in public schools have a great deal of power – at least over their students. Teachers make and enforce classroom rules. They define scholastic culture with procedures and teaching styles. Teachers select course content, define assignments, and create grading rubrics. Moreover, the ways that teachers act will be emulated by students, for better or worse.
But, essentially, what is a teacher? I could argue that a teacher is simply someone with expertise in a content area valued by their society. While the development of effective instructional methods is important, a teacher can simply be a person who is consulted by another human being to share their knowledge on a subject.
In our highly structured public school education system, the idea of teachers has been heavily loaded with a gamut of roles and responsibilities. On any given day, this teacher is any of the following: a content expert, impromptu actor, copy editor, file clerk, test administrator, call center operator, contract lawyer, behavioral psychologist, security guard, interrogation detective, sports coach, parenting consultant, technology troubleshooter, mathematician, secretary, administrative assistant, sociologist, or custodian. In any case, this teacher is a human being – no different than the students in a classroom.
So, what is a student? Most simply, a student is a human being with the goal of learning a skill or content. In our public school system, students must abide by expectations that are generally mandated by outside authorities. Students are often expected to: take numerous timed exams; complete regular assessments with deadlines that correspond to instructional pacing guides; abide by academic standards determined by educational administrators; conform to behavioral expectations; and form some sort of personal identity within the broader school community.
Objectively, the difference between a teacher and student is that one is a content expert, while the other a novice. In public school, however, there is a much larger context for the notion of what constitutes a student. Within our present social constructs, the dynamic between teacher and student is complicated.
Frequently, there are vast age, gender, education level, class, race, culture, religious and economic roles that interplay classroom relationships. While I cannot hope to qualify this interplay in one single post, I would like to mention some of these ideas in order to question the present social paradigms of education. My next post, Ego Vs. Authority, will touch on age difference. Future research and thought will certainly be dedicated to these other social sectors and their impact on education.