The Definition of a Teacher

The Definition of a Teacher

How do you define it?

When my daughter was in the NICU, the nurses couldn’t stress enough how I would be her first teacher. The same thing occurred when we went through First Steps therapy for her premature development, as well as Parents as Teachers via the local school district. Now that we are homeschooling, I think the term should be applied so much more liberally; my daughter’s relatives, peers, music and taekwondo instructors, and even her pets are her teachers.

Scoff if you like; I truly believe that anyone you meet is a type of teacher, and that perhaps school teachers should be referred to something more professional in order to distinguish between them, if they prefer. I do know many who prefer the term educator, and perhaps that works better.

I just think it’s funny how many peoples’ personal definitions of teachers, due to their own background and experience, I suppose, differ. For example, when I gave my author biography to The Whole Child Blog, I told them not to include the word (in this case, it was educator rather than teacher). “But you’ve taught in Spain, in the American Red Cross Youth Service Corps, tutored college students, went to school to be a teacher, trained people in the food preparation business, had your own child, cared for many children, and homeschooled two!” the editor of my work told me. “We take all of that into consideration when we use the word teacher, and if you don’t want it there we’ll take it down, but as far as we are concerned, that’s what you are.”

That was fine with me. I just wanted them to know that I have not taught in American schools in the traditional sense. Sure, I’ve tutored in dozens of them—either my own peers who were completely perplexed by their own teachers, or as a class helper—but never in that rigid, lesson plan capacity—which is what some people, including another publisher of my work, mean when they use the term. They refuse to print any of my listed experiences when I write about education, preferring to list me instead as simply a freelance writer, which is mildly irritating. I would at least like to be listed as a homeschooler; perhaps they think their audience wouldn’t sit well with that. They are more concerned with educational background and that rigid time spent within the classroom—in short, things I don’t care nearly as much about. It’s fine; it’s their publication. But I don’t agree with their narrow scope of what it means to teach, for sure.

What do you think about when you hear the word teacher? The first person who comes to mind for me is my own mother, as well as my grandmother. The Internet certainly pops up as well! I know many people who would say that Buddha, or Jesus Christ, or Mother Theresa was their main teacher, and surely none of them have a traditional educational background. Do you define the term to those who have degrees and spend their times in classrooms each day? Or does it have a much larger scope for you?