As a student, did you ever have a teacher that could talk the talk, but did not walk the walk?
Well, I’ll never forget having on obese PE teacher in middle school. I am not here to discredit someone for being obese. Indeed, as an adult, I too have become overweight. The difference is that I’m not a PE teacher or someone who preaches health and fitness for a living. He would tell us to run when he could not run himself. I saw this as hypocritical and disingenuous.
How many of you had an English teacher who couldn’t spell or made lots of grammatical errors? Again, I think it’s ok to make spelling or grammatical errors, unless you’re the person who teaches and preaches this for a living.
Once I became a teacher, I worked hard not to repeat these examples. So, as a Journalism and Media teacher, I continued to write, publish and produce my own freelance work. Not only did that keep me fresh and relevant, but also gave me credibility. If my students were wrestling with story ideas, being edited, getting published and more, I wanted them to know that I too still experienced the same. I too wanted them to know that these things were still important to me.
As a Student Activities Director who focused a great deal of my teaching on service learning, I worked very hard to continue to my tradition as a practitioner. As an example, when we hosted blood drives or did blood donor education, I made I sure I donated blood too. When we did Community Service Saturdays, I volunteered as well.
As a principal of 21st century project-based high school that emphasized, among other things, things such as the professional use of social media, publishing, entering contests, presenting and more, I have again tried to model once again to my students that I am a practitioner at heart.
I have a professional blog too. I publish regularly as a blogger not only because I enjoy writing and it also serves my own professional development, but also because it shows my students that I want to walk the walk.
I regularly submit applications for conference presenting, awards and other professional programs in order to demonstrate to them that these are lifelong pursuits.
How does this translate into our everyday roles as educators? Doesn’t it seem both appropriate and expected that those who teach and educate should also continue to participate too? Yes, educators must be lifelong practitioners too.
So, what should this look like? Well, for starters, how about these? Math teachers should solve problems. English teachers should write and publish. History teachers should research and publish. Science teachers should discover and experiment. Photography teachers should take pictures and share them. Coaches should play sports. Art teachers should produce art. Foreign Language teachers should speak with native speakers. One should get the idea here.
Probably one of the concepts, in theory, that higher education got right was the expectation that professors should publish. It may, like many things, have evolved into something else, but the intent seemed to be about having them continue to do what their students were doing – researching, writing and more.
In a world where education should continue to be more real and relevant to all students, educators need to be sure to model what we expect. If we want students to be lifelong learners, then we have to be as well. If want students to grow and improve, then we have to demonstrate that we are working to do the same continuously. Educators must be practitioners.
(images courtesy of foter)