Apr 9, 2012

Why I don't like the verb "to teach"

Sages manage the work of detached actions
Conduct the teaching of no words
They work with myriad things but do not control
They create but do not possess

"Teaching" is an extraordinary word. Few words can twist the meaning of a sentence like it does. Consider the sentence:

 "Teachers teach students." 

This sentence does more than just convey that education is happening. It frames the meaning of it. The teacher actively gives the education. The student passively receives it. Education is done to the students.

And for the most part, that is how we teach and think about teachers. It is so ingrained that you can see this giving-and-receiving metaphor in the design of classrooms. The metaphor is so hard to escape because the design of our environment affects our behavior.

But consider the word "learning" instead. Students can learn from a teacher, just as they could learn from a book. "Learning" frames education in a way that values effort and participation from students. The best teachers I have had didn't teach. They created environments for learning and simply let it happen.