Photo by Todd Binger. Used under cc license.
Connected Educators Month™ wraps up this week, and … well, if a tree falls in a forest and nobody is around, does it make a sound?
Okay, that was pithy, but my grades are due tomorrow afternoon and I wasn’t able to take advantage of the end-of-quarter work day because I had to be in a seven-hour training workshop on Friday, so I’ve been extremely busy and haven’t had much time to use the Internet except to procrastinate or steal the occasional moment of downtime. Having to grade 50 advanced English literary analysis papers trumps Twitter chats, so being a “connected educator” hasn’t exactly been a top priority, at least in these last couple of weeks anyway.
But in my perusal of posts and tweets about Connected Educators Month™, I have had some thoughts beyond the pithy comments and snarky posts I’ve written, and being that this is the end of the month I guess it’s only appropriate to reflect, right?
If I have gotten anything out of being a Connected Educator™, it’s that I don’t know if I actually want to think of myself as a Connected Educator™. Furthermore, events like Connected Educators Month™ really don’t seem to do anything except further illustrate the stratification that exists within those who work in education.
I’ll break it down very simply because it’s actually pretty easy: there are educators, and there are teachers.
The difference is twofold and goes beyond just semantics. The first one has to do with simply who can lay claim to the actual professional title of “teacher.” Yes, I realize that “We all can be teachers” and “Teachers don’t just exist in classrooms” and whatever you want to tweet during your average #edchat, but in terms of the actual job title and description, a “teacher” is a more specific title than “educator.” A teacher is in a classroom with students on a daily basis; an educator, on the other hand, can be a principal, administrator, or any number of people who work in education.
The second difference has to do with connotation. Call yourself an “educator” and it sounds … well, it sounds very nice and important. It sounds like you are at the forefront of your field, that you are a decision-maker, that you are innovative, that you are the person who gets things done and are influential. Educators have a voice that is listened to, are fêted, are going to be the “doers.” They are more than just teachers. A teacher, after all, is the problem. A teacher never stopped standing in front of a class of bored students demanding that they take notes off of an overhead projector, not realizing that she’s been replaced by Google. A teacher never stopped getting the summers off, not realizing that learning takes place year-round. A teacher never stopped assigning homework, not realizing that he’s not authentic. When a teacher raises a point or complains, it’s just that–whining and complaining; when an educator raises the same point or complains, it’s insightful and what needs to be said.
A teacher … is the problem. An educator is the solution.
Now, I admit that I’m simplifying things here and I probably am–after all, this is a blog post that I’m writing on a Sunday morning when I haven’t eaten and have only had one cup of coffee as opposed to a well-researched article or book–but if you’ve ever listened, I mean really listened to the conversation among Connected Educators™, you can hear a real condescension toward teachers. Pointing out what practices are out of date, what they have to do to stay relevant (some of which involves buying someone’s book, btw), and even how they are obsolete, unnecessary, and even evil (one Connected Educator™ who gets retweeted a lot referred to people who like high school as suffering from Stockholm Syndrome) is a favorite pastime. Accusing teachers of destroying an entire generation is sometimes even more popular (some people seem to be making entire careers out of that)–although, to be honest, they’re in the minority and mostly it’s just that there’s something seriously wrong with any teacher who refuses to spend his nights on Twitter chatting with his PLN or who has an opinion contrary to the rest of the Connected Educator™ community.
And it’s not that I don’t like being on Twitter and interacting with other people–I have actually made a couple of friends over the course of the last few years, have come away with some great ideas, and have even had a few great opportunities arise. But to this day, when I think of people in education who have influenced me the most, they are still teachers–teachers who I had when I was a student, teachers I work or have worked with, even teachers I have met online. These are people who have a firm grip on the reality of our situation and know not only what needs to be done but what to do about it, even if they’re not showboating all the time. And why? Myriad reasons, really, but most importantly that the Internet could completely disappear tonight and they’d still be able to walk into work tomorrow … and teach.
I really hope I’m that good. Yunno, even if I am just a teacher.