Do we still need Teachers?

Flavia Nakajjugo Effective Teacher, Guest Blog, Home Page Feed

It is 2am in the night and I am grading the last of the student’s scripts. The night is no longer as young as it was when I started. The children all sleeping, the birds and the cars too. The day has not been the easiest, neither have the weeks preceding it. Considering the numbers of the children that I had to teach today, the content that needed to be summarised and revised at the close of day, and the in-class assignments that were due for marking, I could hardly find time to take a breather. “Dear long holiday, where art thou?”, I thought to myself.

When I factor in the revised class management requirements for the learners in their school rooms and all that surrounds getting learners from point A to B, I can’t help but think about the future of the noble profession. I am left at the crossroads even wondering, will we even need teachers in the future? It sometimes feels like there is this downhill rolling boulder called Artificial Intelligence, and teaching is a quiet town in the valley, helplessly watching on as it dashes at them.

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In a world where there is too much information (even that of the unsolicited kind) that it is bordering on information overload; do we still need a teacher to guide learning? Can’t a child given a laptop, a fat bundle of data and a charger guide their own learning? What must the teacher do? Should we hide our heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich? Must we put up a fight against all that is technology and stay in the zone familiar to us? What about the ethical challenges of using a technology that we barely understand? What about plagiarism, intellectual vandalism and outright misappropriation?

When a question is posed on what is the oldest profession, a scandalous answer usually pops up. But in reality, there is always going to be a need for the teacher in the class. There is always going to be a need for a person that can guide knowledge acquisition, and masterfully direct the learning as a skilful conductor directs an orchestra. But how then do we get to this mastery? How do we like an amateur player get to the big leagues.

The answer to all this is  CONTINUOUS LEARNING!

In the course of my time as a teacher, I have come to the conclusion that, you don’t know what you don’t know. After teaching for a while, it is so easy to get too trapped in the familiar that the science teacher can continue to cite a recently disapproved fact as gospel truth, only to be disapproved rather embarrassingly by facts that a learner presents. In my country, we jokingly call this knowledge “yellow notes” as a jab at the used-to-be-white-papers that have yellowed with use and reuse by the teacher.

For us teachers who are also the bastions of learning, we cannot afford to be left behind as other professions regularly stop, to evaluate the knowledge that we have, drop some that has become obsolete, and add new knowledge as need dictates.

In the TTT modules on the role of the teacher they not only divulge why the teachers are needed, but they also explain why the teacher can never be replaced. The fact that even in the most advanced machine learning, models, it is a highly effective teachers that would need to train it.

image of Zone of Proximal Development

There will always be a place for the “Sensei” a smart, compassionate and intuitive guide along the path of knowledge acquisition. It explores the concept of gradual release of responsibility for learning where the teacher is trained to slowly draw in the children to take responsibility of their learning; finding that sweet spot of proximal development, where the content is challenging enough for the learner, but yet simple enough to keep them engaged and finally, how to maintain the course of learning, even as the environment changes.

Having pondered long and hard, about the numerous responsibilities and opportunities available to us as teachers, I put down the pen to get off the table, with a satisfied smile of accomplishment. I am aware that the challenges are there, but the opportunities are more than these challenges!

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