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Teachers or “teachers”?

Joseph, an English teacher, had his whole class prepared. Before walking in the class, he made sure he had all he needed with him: laptop, pendrive, websites to use in class, his PowerPoint slides (which took him ages to organise) and the DVD he was going to use with the class. Joseph was proud of himself – he was doing what has become the norm these days. He was a digital teacher. His learners, he had been told, were all digital natives, they were all born with a computer on their laps, a blog, and, lately, a twitter account. He knew he had to be prepared to face such tech genius, so he made sure he was at his best.

When Joseph walked into the classroom, all his students were ready for the lesson. The interactive whiteboard was eagerly waiting for the teacher’s input. Joseph was also aware that his role as a teacher was to let learners co-construct learning, so he made sure to include a couple of collaborative activities in his lesson, all of them would require the tech-savvy students of his to use their laptops and do online research. As soon as he walked into the classroom, the lights went off – a major power shortage. A situation which, according to the news Susan (a student) got on Twitter in her mobile, could take at least two hours to be solved. It was still early in the afternoon, and the classroom had lots of windows, which allowed for sunlight to enter the room.

All of a sudden, Joseph found himself in a tough spot. He’d learned all that was needed to teach digital learners, but now the lesson he’d so carefully prepared, couldn’t be delivered. There he was, in front of 15 teenagers who were looking at him waiting for the words to come out of his mouth. What did Joseph do?

The fictional story above pictures a teacher who relies too much on technology when walking into the classroom. But what would our fictional teacher do now? Well, I’d like to point out two possibilities:

1. Joseph simply doesn’t care much about it. Even though he was trying to integrate technology into his teaching as a way to motivate his learners, he is a resourceful teacher. As such, he knows things occasionally don’t go according to plan, and he is able to start and deliver his lesson successfully. The fact that he couldn’t do what he’d planned didn’t jeopardise his lesson as his skills as a teacher had been developed to teach him how to think on his feet. He is aware that he teaches people, and, as such, he can talk to them, and still reach them without all the pizzazz of his presentations.

2. Joseph was at a loss. He wasn’t aware of the fact that sometimes, well, things don’t go according to plan and you still have to do your job. He’d never been taught what to do in a situation where he had to think on his own. Suddenly, the lesson plan didn’t have all the answers. Joseph just sat there, looking at his students, praying that Mary and her twitter friend were wrong.

Please, don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favour of meaningful use of technology or any other resource in class. If it’s meaningful, use it! What I now see as a problem is the over-reliance on certain technologies, basically coming from novice teachers or teachers who are merely reproducing everything they hear. Technology for technology’s sake is not the answer to your students’ lack of motivation. Human beings are curious by nature. Talk to them, and they respond, they react, and sometimes they overreact. This emotional response is what gets us going… but I digress.

The bottom line of Joseph’s story is that teachers don’t have to be taught simply what they can use in the classroom. Teacher, 21st century educators, need to be resourceful. They need to know when to use each tool so that they can reach their students. Teenagers are all about technology? Well, they’re all about face to face interaction as well. Just like any one of the adults who surround them, they are looking for affirmation. They are looking for someone who is going to pay attention to them as human beings as well, not only as learners. Teachers who are not resourceful can’t do this. Teachers who are resourceful, are ready to adapt and change the direction of the lesson if that’s what students need. Resourceful teachers don’t simply do what students want, but they don’t simply take the students to their final destination. Instead, they lead the way, they support, they encourage, they give feedback, and they explore different dimensions with their learners.

Resourceful teachers? Wait… I meant teachers… the problem is that there are many people working as teachers, when in fact, they aren’t.

Are you a resourceful teacher, or do you just follow what others tell you to do? Are you a teacher, or are you a “teacher”? And what about the people who work with you? What about the people you know? Are most of them teachers or “teachers”?

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