In the thick of the back to school meetings, during a heated discussion about student centered learning, the presence of technology in the 21st century classroom, and in a room of fully committed, professional adults who have made it their life’s work to inspire and teach the youth of America, one question posed by a colleague had the conversation halted. It wasn’t because the question was one we hadn’t thought of ourselves in the quiet of our own mind. It was because it sounded so outlandish, yet so simple out in the open. The question asked: If they can learn everything from a YouTube video or website, what is the point of us being here?
It was a viable question posed by a brave soul. Teaching, for as long as it has been in existence, is a profession that is littered with people who need to be needed. We chose this path because we find meaning in being the ones to impart the knowledge, or at the very least possess the coveted treasure map to find it. 21st century education and technology implementation, however, turns the idea of the traditional classroom on its head. The new practice widely held and adopted by schools is student centered and project based learning, which by definition requires teachers to stand by while the students grapple with and locate information themselves. Many feel that because of this, technology is rapidly taking our place as the keeper of the informational keys. Now students can access it just as easily, if not more efficiently, than many of us.
Spell a word wrong? Student can look it up on Google. Compute a quick mental math problem incorrectly? Student whips out a calculator and shows you your mistake. Need help recalling the date of the 4th battle in WWII? Suzie B in the front row could ask Siri and get the accurate answer quicker than you could ever dream of by consulting your old lesson plan notes. In a world of such a surplus of information, do students even really need teachers?
There was, after this question was asked, a stunned silence. I looked around at my colleagues and then at the supervisor. So we talked. The conclusion that we gathered, a room of adults questioning the very necessity of what we decided to dedicate our lives to, is that because education is evolving, therefore so should we. The role of a teacher no longer resides in the center of the room, but rather the middle of it, or maybe even on the outskirts of it, level with the students. Students no longer need teachers, but they do still crave inspiration from role models, and flourish under the direction of creativity.
Without selling ourselves short, it is in our best interest to accept our new role as the facilitator and guide as opposed as the center stage main attraction. We as teachers should work smarter, not harder, and students should be doing both.
About the Author: Mandi Waldron is an English teacher at Howell High School. She is also the coach of the boys and girls varsity swim team.