Hey, you! Teacher!
Everyone is a teacher. However, our society has led us to believe that only specific subjects may be taught, and these subjects must be taught in a specific place, by specific people. Yet, most of the skills we learn about being who we are, being better people, and being good at our jobs are not taught in a classroom. Yes, formalized education gets our foot in the door for certain things, but our life mentors and teachers, like family, friends, and even strangers, teach us the most about living.
The current research on education challenges this notion that learning is a formalized activity, and that what gets learned should be an amalgamation of decontextualized facts and procedures that for many of us, lack any depth or relevance to our daily living. In fact, this common notion of learning, and being a “good student” gets challenged in reform-based teaching every day!
For example, in online education, most instructional designers and educators build upon the theory of social constructivism (Mayes & De Freitas, 2004). This theory says that we construct what we know and understand by actively engaging with others and with our environment (Phillips, 1995). Now, if you think about how you, personally, have learned things, I bet this makes sense. How did you learn how to cook? How to ride a bike? Or how to pick up a hobby that you love? More than likely, these things were not learned through a lecture in a classroom. It may start there, but for most experiences, we learn through doing, talking, trying and failing and trying again. …and that’s natural!
When we think of learning in this way, then anyone we interact with who has taught us something (and this something could even be a new viewpoint or idea) has become our teacher. Conversely, when you share your knowledge with others, you are a teacher.
So what are you waiting for? Go out and teach!