February 26th, 2012

Rebranding Teachers

A couple of weeks ago, I ran across this post on “Rebranding Teachers" at Hyperakt, a design firm for "the Common Good." Here’s the gist:

We began with a simple premise, that education is the key to human progress, therefore teaching is among the most important professions for humanity. Our new visual vocabulary should capture the excitement and magic of activating the potential that is innate in every student. It should celebrate the process of developing ideas, reflect the collaborative nature of teaching and pay homage to existing visual tools used in teaching.

Included are a host of images that aim to reach that goal. Here’s one:

Do check out the rest.

I continue to struggle with the whole “teacher” idea, at least in the traditional sense that we use it in schools. It goes back to my struggle with what learning really is and how we can best make that happen in schools. Do I really want “teachers” for my kids? As I’ve said many times before, I think the majority of those who teach find their value in their ability to “deliver” the curriculum in engaging, perhaps memorable ways, not in their ability to help students uncover or create their own curriculum for learning as they go. To put it another way, most teachers don’t place a greater value in their own ability to learn and model learning. In that way, the word “teacher” connotes someone with something to give, some piece of knowledge or skill or content that must be taught. But lost in that interaction too many times is the most important learning of all, a student’s ability to learn on his or her own, to ask his or her own questions, find the answers, and create new knowledge around those answers. 

So when I ran across this “rebranding” effort, my reaction was not like most of those leaving comments. I think the bigger rebranding effort is around just what the role of the adult in the room is in schools today. Ironically, as some of the graphics on the Hyperakt site suggest, it’s more about discovery than teaching. What if instead of seeing the adult in the room as the point through which the curriculum ebbs and flows and as the ultimate arbiter or what’s been learned we saw that person as the chief instigator of discovery, or the person that continually asks questions that he or she doesn’t have the answers to, or the learning expert that constantly models passionate and discerning practice around “learning more?” That would be a more relevant rebrand than things like “Teach Curiosity” which, at the end of the day, is something many would argue the system teaches out of kids who naturally bring it with them.

I find a lot of irony in that snip above. It’s a gaggle of competing verbs. Do we “teach?” Do we “activate” the innate potential of kids? Do we “develop” ideas? Are those things the same, really? Given the baggage of over a century of “teaching” defined by iconic symbols and roles, I don’t think they are. Maybe the real rebranding has to start with a different word altogether. 

***Added 2/27: Seth Godin gets to this in his new manifesto on schools (which I’ll probably be blogging about more in a bit.) He says:

If there’s information that can be written down, widespread digital access now means that just about anyone can look it up. We don’t need a human being standing next to us to lecture us on how to find the square root of a number or sharpen an axe.  (Worth stopping for a second and reconsidering the revolutionary nature of that last sentence.)  What we do need is someone to persuade us that we want to learn those things, and someone to push us or encourage us or create a space where we want to learn to do them better. (Section #44)


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Welcome! I'm Will Richardson, parent, educator, speaker, author, 12-year blogger at Weblogg-ed and now here. I'm trying to answer the question "What happens to schools and classrooms and learning in a 2.0 world?" Best selling new book: Why School?s...order now!!

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