Teacher as Interactive Catalyst

One of my few pet peeves are people that state the obvious as if it were some kind of new revelation. Or even worse yet, try to make an entire theory or standard based off on something that should be obvious to everyone.  Recently in Ed Tech circles, an obvious statement has been making the rounds, usually posed as some huge revelation to the whole world: “the teacher should be a learner.”  Really? Next you will tell me that they should also start breathing oxygen!

Human beings need to be learners.  We need to constantly grow and expand or we just wither away.  Most teachers are learners, but some people just have to focus on the small number of bad ones that are withering away.

I also know from experience when you have a bad teacher that isn’t a learner, that aspect pretty much dominates the course. But as a teacher who is also a learner myself, I can attest that a majority of the time my students could care less that I am a learner. They would notice if i wasn’t, but since that is not the case they move on to other things that are more pressing in their minds.

What they need from me is to be present – to interact with them and be whatever they need me to be at that moment.  Yes, sometimes they need me to learn from them. That is part of the learning process – to discover something that the teacher didn’t know and share it with them. But they also need me to answer questions they don’t know – they still need the guru. They need me to give them feedback on ideas. They need me to provide tech support. They need me to offer career advice. They need a whole host of interaction with me that goes beyond learner but does not fit into the category of “teaching.” And even when they do need me to teach, I prefer to show them how to find the answers rather than just provide the answers themselves.  Usually, they like this, too.

The only word I can find for this is “interacter.”  Which is not even a real word outside of biology. But you can often interact with someone and not really bring about any real change or improvement. I think I like the word ‘catalyst’ the best – but people also probably have different takes on that word (some negative), so I have to explain what I mean.  Hence the term “interactive catalyst.”  Catalysts ultimately bring about change, and in education we can best do that by interacting and being what the students need us to be at any given point in the course.

Which, historically has always been the way you defined the word “teacher.”  But the word “teach” has gotten an unfair bad rap recently, so now we have to come up with new ways to say the same thing all over again. To me, “teacher is a learner” just doesn’t cut it.

Of course, I am not really trying to create a new theory here or give away ideas for yet another book on teaching – this is really just me finding a way to describe my objective as a teacher.

Matt Crosslin
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

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