Teacher Evolution
by Mark Karadimos (e-mail: webmaster@mathguide.com) [July 19th, 2000]

     The questions and answers that follow address the need for teacher evolution within The United States. These questions were acquired as a result of an essay portion of a final exam for a course called Ethics, Education and Change.

  1. How do we transform the role of a teacher from that of a clerk to that of an ‘intellectual?’
  2. Would that affect or change the image society has of teachers?
  3. How would that affect the field of education, and the role of teacher as a curriculum theorist?
  4. Is the teacher of ‘tomorrow’ that of a teacher-researcher or remain that of a book-dispenser of knowledge?
  1.  How do we transform the role of a teacher from that of a clerk to that of an ‘intellectual?’

         It is clear that teachers cannot be clerks. It is impossible for teachers to impart knowledge like paper-pushers at the Department of Motor Vehicles who move people along in neat little columns. Teachers must handle subject matter delicately in a creative fashion to make it understandable and lively. This important duty is not prescriptive because the teacher must balance state standards, a dynamic curriculum and students’ needs.

         That said, elevating the role of teacher to ‘intellectual’ status could be accomplished by providing the correct environment. Administrators must transform state mandated institutes into quality experiences. Teachers must be informed of graduate level programs that deal with the full paradigm of education. Teachers must proactively take it upon themselves to raise teaching standards.

         Administrators could assist in this process by delivering useful institutes. Too many times state mandated institutes are poorly managed or simply do not meet the needs of students and teachers. These institutes could be used to address critical issues that point to missing educational mortar, or in some cases faulty keystones.


    “Forces beyond the control of teachers have shaped public opinion of education. State standards – constructed by people who are ignorant of the full breadth of educational issues – are having a greater impact on education.”

         If educators became aware of challenging graduate programs, they would be able to help tuckpoint or reconstruct the curriculum. We know that grassroots movements have the biggest, longest-lasting impact when considering change. If teachers became better equipped at identifying the need for change due to training from challenging courses, grassroots movements might be more common.

         Once educators receive training in the history of education, the many facets of reform and the political forces that exist, teachers must take it upon themselves to mold education. Teachers can do what they have been doing for many years and remain passive to reform issues while operating as islands in their classrooms. Behavior such as that only confirms what some people suspect: teachers do not take ownership of their profession. There are a number of educators who already address issues but their numbers are too few to make a substantial difference.

  2.  Would that affect or change the image society has of teachers?

         If the changes prescribed above were to happen, the image society has of teachers would most certainly change. There are some members of society who feel that teachers merely bide their time or do not take the profession as serious as they should. Yet this view may be the result of forces beyond the control of teachers. Nevertheless, once personal ownership by individual teachers becomes encouraged and finally actualized, society as a whole will gain a greater respect for the teaching profession.

         Some members of society believe teachers are not doing an adequate job. They speak of lethargic teachers who are ready for retirement and inexperienced teachers who cannot handle their classrooms. These stereotypes have had the misfortune of stigmatizing the entire profession. The stereotype is undeserved because teachers do care and they work very hard. They spend a considerable amount of time planning and grading but the effort is hidden and goes unnoticed by students, parents and politicians.

         Forces beyond the control of teachers have shaped public opinion of education. State standards – constructed by people who are ignorant of the full breadth of educational issues – are having a greater impact on education. Administrators carry out school board policies that reflect local political interests instead of educational ideals. The threat of litigation also plays a part in negatively affecting school policies. Members of society are not aware of these parameters that educators must endure. As a result, educators bare full blame for the state of affairs that exist today.

         Once educators – specifically teachers – become active players within the theater of politics, public opinion is bound to change for the better. Educators have the duty of teaching their students but they must also inform fellow members of society of the parameters made by many forces that constrain the profession. Bringing these forces to light will allow educators to have an impact on them. On a smaller scale, teachers can focus student attention on the process of education itself and use it as a tool for learning, which will also serve to guide large-scale forces. This will bring much needed attention to the educational process and raise personal involvement. The result will be a greater respect for educators.

  3.  How would that affect the field of education, and the role of teacher as a curriculum theorist?

         Questions II and III are intertwined. As described above, we can envision the benefits that a proactive, consolidated group of teachers would have on education. Although, curriculum has not yet been mentioned specifically in this essay.


    “In short, instead of empowering teachers to make a difference, policy-makers have decided to go in the opposite direction by disemboweling teachers through micromanagement.”

         Teachers are at the mercy of a top-heavy bureaucracy when it comes to curriculum. Of course, teachers land up doing what they please within the classroom, but they do so not without risk. Teachers who do not meet certain objectives can hurt the following classes that inherit students who do not have the prerequisite abilities necessary to be successful in those classes. Allowing teachers to exist in ‘lone wolf’ systems is detrimental and is a dangerous consequence many systems face.

         The political tide will change once teachers are encouraged to remain connected to their curricula. Teachers are forced to modify course content at an alarming rate due to the outside committees that dictate it. They are rarely given an opportunity to run free with content because these committees are swayed by political noise. Teacher credibility suffers as long as the system views teachers as political pawns. Reversing this trend will eventually empower teachers.

         Ironically, this empowerment has an obstacle. Teachers have lost power because political policy-makers at the local levels, state levels and federal levels have attacked teachers as a means for igniting reform within education. Anyone who is familiar with education and its issues knows this effort is misplaced. In my view it actually hinders progress within education in the long run because it neuters teachers. In short, instead of empowering teachers to make a difference, policy-makers have decided to go in the opposite direction by disemboweling teachers through micromanagement.

         Those who study Hirsch may disagree with my theory. Hirsch was concerned with a common curriculum and it could be proposed that national standards dictated by centralized committees would achieve that end. However, Hirsch also believed that a national curriculum would also achieve common knowledge and a strong democratic mindset. Therefore, I doubt Hirsch would have excluded teacher involvement – as we see happening today – when developing this common curriculum due to his view of democracy.

  4.  Is the teacher of ‘tomorrow’ that of a teacher-researcher or remain that of a book-dispenser of knowledge?

         I do not agree with the assumption that teachers today are strictly ‘book-dispensers of knowledge.’ Some teachers may fall into that trap for a number of reasons, some of which are beyond teacher control, but the majority of teachers use books as reference points. So the later part of the question is a characterization that is not completely kosher in my opinion.

         That aside, I do believe the role of teaching is in a constant state of change, which is governed in part by technological advancement. For instance, when the printing press was invented, information became readily available. It revolutionized societies worldwide, which also necessitated communication acquisition within education. The birth of electronics exists as another example. Electronics influenced transportation, healthcare and communication. The impact of electronics has also insisted that members of society possess a high degree of science knowledge and critical thinking skills – yet another shot in the arm for education.

         The latest watershed moment was the Internet and we are still under its spell due to its relative infancy. The Internet will broaden educational landscapes, as it will further raise our ability to communicate, transfer information and remodel the modern workplace. As we enter into the Information Age, we will see education evolve once again.

         Teachers can prepare online lesson plans, conduct classes to and from remote locations and utilize a fast medium for producing timely research. Teachers will certainly rely less on texts in the future. Instead, they may subscribe to various websites to gain relevant information. This means that educators as dispensers of information will become a dead notion. Surrounded by a plethora of information, teachers will spend more time on critical thinking skills. How else will the modern adult learn how to cope with such a flood of information?

Further Study

  • Google Directory: Reference:Education:K through 12:School Choice
  • Google Directory: Society:Issues:Education:Education Reform
  • ABCNews: This Summer, Campaign Trail Becomes Educators' Classroom

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