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Teacher and Student: what is a teacher and what is a student anyway?

academic 2Am I a teacher and do I have students? Well, according to my job description and title, it appears that I am and I do have students. Does it really mean I consider myself as a teacher having students though? Not sure…

The general understanding is that everybody knows a teacher is someone who teaches stuff to students and whose students are taught something in return during a time frame, a period, a lesson, which is most of the time taught inside a classroom environment. At least, this is how it looks like and this is how we mostly conceive education, teaching and studying in Western countries.

However, you will find out that general conception is mislead by centuries of history and semantic evolution. So, here would be a wonderful research project to study, analyze and compare should we have the time to study the etymology and meaning of all the terms from all languages around the world used for teachers, students, teach, study and learn. Sadly, I do not have that much time for such project, yet I believe that my experience in the field as well as my knowledge of Celtic, French and English should give a quite accurate idea of what is, was, and should education be.

Feeling and meaning behind the words

It is clear that after reading the *Appendix, our conception of education is ambiguous; in one hand we have a vocabulary of “leisure”, “rest”, “ease”, “to bring up”, “to cultivate”, “to think about”, and in the other hand we have: “devotion”, “intensive reading”, “point out”, “declare”, “to warn”, “to persuade.” So, what should we understand here? What does this really tell us? Well, It tells us that we have a duality and an opposition of two groups of words representing two distinct teaching areas:
1_“Learning & leisure” -which was the essence of what was education in the olden days.
2_“Christianity,” “priesthood” and “clergy” -the study of the Bible and its teachings.

From Paganism to Christianity

There is no surprise in there as it is known that religion -Christianity, took other the previous pagan educative systems between the 5th and 10th century. Thus, no wonder why our conception of education is deeply rooted in our Judeo-Christian societies which brought values, truths and teachings taught in the Bible. As a result, more than a thousand years later, we are having these hidden, yet very much alive, meanings behind the words.

What was a teacher in ancient time?

According to this quick study we can see that, prior to the introduction of Christianity, both Greeks, Romans, Celts and Anglo-Saxons had a different idea from what is today’s education and being a teacher: “to enjoy thinking” and “to give birth” for the Greeks (see Socrates’ Maieutics), “to build” and “to cultivate” for the Romans, “to guide” for the Angles and the Saxons, and “to initiate”, “to show the way” for the Celts (although the meaning of “Druid” is lost, we do know druids were considered as “initiators” and “wise-men” by the Gauls).

Enjoying thinking, giving birth to ideas, building and cultivating knowledge –more precisely “connaissance” and “savoir,” while guiding initiating youngsters toward the path of rites and wisdom seems to have been the global meaning behind the “whole education” in ancient time (at least in Western Europe).

So what did really happen?

How did “school” moved from the antiquity “leisure”, “spare time”,”leisure for learning” to what it is today, that is: “a school is an institution designed for the teaching of students (or “pupils”) under the direction of teachers”? (Wikipedia). These duality reminds me of my previous Early Childhood Development instructor and mentor Michelle Straka, whom wrote these few words recently:
…I started my school because I wanted a relaxed and loving environment in which children could play and enjoy friendships with other children and their teachers. I wanted them (and me!) to have fun (learning would be the inevitable outcome);” and talking about nowadays schools and developmentally appropriate practices (DAP) she added what I have also noticed in the field:
It seems like JOY is missing. Who wants to live a life like that – especially children who are born with joy in their souls and then get it taken away as they are taught how to be “responsible”?

As we have seen above, at one point of our history education and Christianity blent over a thousand of years ago -which event affected our collective understanding of the whole education system; changing our understanding from “pleasure to learn” to something more dogmatic and focusing less on the process and more on the result (memorizing, reading, listening, studying, working, getting good grades). And as a consequence, it is obvious that, even though we gained knowledge, we lost the original essence of being a teacher and being a student in a school environment.

Inevitably, religious ideology over education has remained in the unconsciousness of our minds, on the tip of our tongues, and in the gesture of our actions as parents, teachers and students. And I must say, even though I have a profound respect for religions, it is, to my sense, impossible to have dogmas while teaching or learning (this is why “Christianity” remains a religion while “Buddhism” is a philosophy.) We should all be introduced and exposed to religion but the conscious, or unconscious, choice of the deep studies of them should come from within -not from outside.

Teacher? Student?

Of a teacher, I have but the title and I would consider myself more like an “awakener”, a doula, and hopefully a mentor, who helps guide and give birth to many elements that shapes the soul, the spirit, the heart, and the brain, while having fun and enjoying the time together.

Regarding my students, yes they are; yet, they can not be but my students. Studies and academics are only the visible tip of the educational-iceberg.

Next Article >> Benefits of being a teacher

APPENDIX – Supporting Evidence

Etymology of English words “teacher”, “learner”, “student”, “Educator”, and “School”

Teacher: “to teach”, from the old English tæcan “to show, point out, declare, demonstrate,” also “to give instruction, train, assign, direct; warn; persuade”; while the Old English word for “to teach, instruct, guide” was more commonly læran, source of modern “learn” and “lore”.

Teacher and learner: “to learn”, from the Old English leornian “to get knowledge, be cultivated, study, read, think about,” with a base sense of “to follow or find the track.” The transitive sense (He learned me how to read), now vulgar, was acceptable from c. 1200 until early 19c., from Old English læran “to teach”; transitive form also used in Breton language (Celtic) deskiñ “to teach, to learn”.

Student: “to study” early 12c., “to strive toward, devote oneself to, cultivate” from Old French estudiier “to study, apply oneself, show zeal for; examine”, from Medieval Latin studiare, from Latin studium “study, application,” originally “eagerness,” from studere “to be diligent” (“to be pressing forward”) –“A study” c. 1300, “application of the mind to the acquisition of knowledge, intensive reading and contemplation of a book, writings, etc.,” from Old French estudie “care, attention, skill, thought; study, school”, from Latin studium “study, application”. Also from c. 1300 as “a state of deep thought or contemplation; a state of mental perplexity, doubt, anxiety; state of amazement or wonder.”

Educator: “to educate” mid-15c., “bring up (children), to train,” from Latin educatus, past participle of educare “bring up, rear, educate”, which is a frequentative of or otherwise related to educere “bring out, lead forth,” from ex– “out” + ducere “to lead”.

School: “place of instruction,” Old English scol, from Latin schola “intermission of work, leisure for learning; learned conversation, debate; lecture; meeting place for teachers and students, place of instruction; disciples of a teacher, body of followers, sect,” from Greek skhole “spare time, leisure, rest ease; idleness; that in which leisure is employed; learned discussion;” also “a place for lectures, school. The original notion is “leisure,” which passed to “otiose discussion” (in Athens or Rome the favorite or proper use for free time), then “place for such discussion.”

(…back to Feeling and meaning behind the words ↑)

Positive educational terminology
“to learn”
“to mentor”
“to guide”
“to scaffold”

Neutral educational terminology
“to study”
“to profess” (professor)
“to instruct”
“to educate”

Rather negative educational terminology
“to teach”

To be completed…

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