We’re all teachers

I am always amused by those who take the educational hierarchy seriously. If it weren’t so sad, it would be quaint.

You know this idea that university professors are somehow “higher” than community college instructors (in many places were aren’t allowed to use the title professor, even if we have the same credentials as our university peers). Those who teach at colleges are considered a notch above the high school teachers; who are surely more competent than the middle school teachers, who are only a hair better than elementary teachers; who really wish those pre-school teachers would actually prepare children for ‘real school’.

Learning is continuous, recursive, and cylical. The idea of a hierarchy of  educators harks back to the concept of the school as a factory and children as manufactured items that move along an assembly line with each discrete piece of their education being attached by the assigned worker and a specific time. Surely, by now we’ve realized this model does not match how humans actually learn.

It’s not just the children who need a more seamless approach to teaching and learning; educators benefit from learning and collaborating across the artificial barriers of grade or school levels. We have so much to learn from each other about our content, about pedagogy, about our students.  I’m involved right now in a classroom exchange between one section of my community college freshman composition students and a class of 9th graders in another state. An important part of that exchange is the learning going on between me and the high school teacher about how to do such an exchange effectively, about the content the students are learning (the two classes are studying Martin L. King’s, Letter from Birmingham Jail) .  

As we push for the professionalization of teaching, we could help ourselves greatly by respecting each other for the professionals we are.

What learning opportunities have you experienced or do you see for educators working across levels?

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  • ArielSacks

    So true!

    Wow, this is so true, and yet so many are stuck in this antiquated view.  What systems could change to help get rid of the perceived hierarchy?  I know, for example, that early childhood educators make very little money.  This sends a message. And professors make more than k-12 teachers, generally. Levels of education are part of this equation. Early childhood teachers don’t necessarily have masters degrees, while most k-12 teachers do. Education is important, but not not the factor that most aligns with the level of challenge or value of the job.

  • Ken Bernstein

    there is a need for balance

    between recognizing the need for appropriate background and falling into the trap of “credentialism”

    that said, there are far too many at the college/university level who are not effective teachers – remember that in many cases tenure at that level is dependent more upon publication than it is upon the ability to be an effective teacher

    insofar as we teach, we need to balance between our responsibility to the students before us and fidelity to the subject matter in which we teach.  

    All good teachers learn how to balance those two.

  • ReneeMoore

    Let’s look closer

    Thank you Ken and Ariel for those comments. Actually, Ariel, college teachers don’t always make more than K-12, in many places they make less. It gets even murkier when      you consider that many college teachers are adjuncts (often K12 teachers moonlighting for extra income). When I went full time to community college, I actually took a $6,000 pay cut. 

    Ken is also correct that most college professors have had not instruction or training in how to teach. Until fairly recently, teaching was the least important part of their job, and the part for which they got little real reward or evaluation (much less support). That has changed some with the growing popularity of the concept of the scholarship of teaching (that teaching is as much an academic discipline as any content area, and should be shared). That concept has been pushed by the Carnegie Foundation among others, especially under its former President, Lee Shulman. 

    I would like to see educators view ourselves and our profession as more of a continuum, with all of us collaborating in more ways to build a more vibrant teaching and learning environment for all. 

  • BriannaCrowley



    I just cross-posted this at GOOD.is. Feel free to jump on there to answer any comments that arise. 🙂