I was thinking about the word “Professors” yesterday. To profess means to proclaim, announce, state. It speaks to the notion that teachers are the bearers of knowledge and our students are the consumers. That is not the model for the 21st century classroom, so my next thought was that teachers are no longer professors, so to speak.
We are still in the position of transmitting knowledge, but I think we have moved from the role of lecturer to that more closely resembling a docent at a museum. Upon investigating this chain of thought, I came to understand is that a docent in the university versus the museum setting, is a step BELOW the professor, merely a guide who is qualified to teach. Well, then, I think I am living in some parallel universe because Guide is my dream role.
The thrill of teaching does not come in that moment when you have said something enough times for your students to be able to repeat it back to you. The reward comes in the moment when a student begins to ask deeper questions, connects the answers she has discovered and comes to a conclusion – which dawns more questions. You can see it in his eyes as it all unfolds – that sparkle of excitement. When you watch the student apply that discovery to a novel situation, well that is just gold! That requires guidance, not a lecture.
Direct instruction is still needed. Some skills and foundations of knowledge need the scaffolding of direct instruction. But I argue that the skills and factual knowledge are not the end-goal anymore. What I profess to you is that when we have students who can apply their skills to an unfamiliar task or setting, who are flexible in their thinking and continue to ask, “What if . . .?” long after they have left our corridors, we will have guided our students to a life unbounded.