Teacher (Re)Defined – A work in progress.

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Change: A word that invokes fear in ordinary, unordinary and super ordinary people alike. Especially teachers. And yet, it’s the only constant, right?

Our education system has undergone change. Especially in the last decade: with the ubiquitous presence of technology tools and the ever-growing influence of social (some call it antisocial?) media. What about Teachers, has that role changed at all? Should the title be changed to Educators? Life-long Learners? Guides? Sherpas? Leaders? Well, whatever it is or isn’t, it doesn’t matter as long as we acknowledge the fact that “The Times They Are a-Changin'”. As times change, so do labels. We categorize and box things neatly into categories that we can then take apart and dissect as needed. As the word teacher continues to be used in educational institutions around the world, it gains a specific association with certain terms that can be deemed as less than respectful. I propose that we take a look at some of these terms, break down the definitions, and see where one may fall (or where one stands):


Teacher: a person who teaches, especially in a school.
As I type “teacher” into google, two of the four suggestions that come up have to do with salary. The word teacher, unfortunately, has become synonymous with underpaid, under-appreciated, under-respected and over-tested. Maybe if the term and definition were reimagined, one might break out of the ludicrosity (yes, that’s a mangled word) of these associations. One of the other associations of the word which is perhaps my own progressive delusional opinion, is that of a “sage on the stage”, a purveyor of information, one who passes knowledge from their vast reservoir to fill the bucket of the lowly student. Definitely worth redefining the way that this word is used, or at least disassociating it from these unseemly attributes.


Educator: a person who provides instruction or education; a teacher.
Again, synonymous with teacher. Maybe it has a broader connotation, but IMHO it’s too similar and if a perspective change is required, the distance between the word teacher needs to be established.

Life-long Learner: 
Maybe a little egocentric – then again, who am I to judge, right?

Guide: a person who advises or shows the way to others.
Personally, I like this word. It gives a sense of letting the student (aka learner) be more in charge of their education while the guide gives them advice and helps them to look in places where they might not have searched otherwise. It effectively gives rise to collaboration and creates avenues for more dialogue driven communication.

Sherpa: a member of a Himalayan people living on the borders of Nepal and Tibet, renowned for their skill in mountaineering.
In other words, an exotic “guide”.

Leader: the person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country.
Somewhat arrogant, no? Especially to self-appropriate that title…

How about if we look at a term such as “Educational Guides” or …

What are your thoughts?

Adnan Iftekhar

1 Comment

  1. Jon Deane

    The Lindsay (CA) School District has done a great job of reimagining adult roles- “teachers” are now “learning facilitators”, reflecting the move to student- centered learning.