Am I a Teacher or a Learner?

Somewhere along the way—I don’t remember where or when but it was during the past couple of years—I heard or read someone explain that many teachers become teachers because they enjoy learning. That’s certainly true with me: I enjoyed being a student & I especially enjoyed many of my undergraduate & graduate courses in college. I still enjoy learning new things; as a result, I enjoy being around colleges & universities (& libraries) because they are the places where learning occurs on a continual basis.

Those who observe effective teachers seem to notice that they are also effective learners: effective teachers sometimes blur the lines between their roles as teachers & their students’ roles as learners in a way that makes it unclear who is teaching & who is learning. Student-directed learning is one of the more obvious examples of this hybridization.

But somehow these blurring roles between teachers & students still maintain instructors as the “mostly teacher” & leave students as the “mostly learner”. And so the need to really change teachers into learners struck me most when I first saw teacher professional development referred to as “professional learning” & “teacher learning” (as in the second paragraph of this blog entry). Teachers becoming learners (also) is a natural fit since we became teachers because we love to learn.

Furthermore, some complain that professional development in education (ironically) ignores many important principles of learning theory (hence, educators are less likely to learn much from their own professional development). Again, if teachers want to be fully effective, they need to be learners just as much as they are teachers. And professional development for educators needs to be grounded in effective pedagogical (or andragogical) theory & practice.

The possibilities are exciting. Making my profession equal parts teaching & learning will change—maybe even re-establish?—the very definition of being a teacher into being a learner.

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