The five teachers

A few years ago, I attended a conference by the architect Pierre Thibault who identified four “teachers” constantly at work with the student. For my part, I count five: two types are "human", but there is also the machine, space and time.

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A few years ago, I attended a conference by the architect Pierre Thibault who identified four “teachers” constantly at work with the student. For my part, I count five: two types are "human", but there is also the machine, space and time.

The parent who teaches

First and foremost, parents are our students' first teachers and they will be for their entire lives. Obviously, there is nothing professional about being a teacher-parent, but, as a general rule, the level of benevolence is hardly so predominant in other humans who supervise young people in their life course. This relationship, often emotional and symbiotic, allows the child to carry out his first learning in the world. Parents then delegate their authority to the school environment so that their child can learn new things in society, with their peers, under the aegis of the teacher. Parents are still their child's primary teachers, but now they work in partnership with others at school. It would be possible to consider that the parent is the main teacher 66 % of the time while it is the professional teacher and the other members of the staff who take over for the other third of the time that takes place in the middle. school.

The teacher who teaches

Precisely, those who work at school, these teachers or other actors in the school environment, are professionals who have completed university studies in didactics and pedagogy. Their work is complementary to that of the parents and they support the students in an education process aimed at achieving formal and informal learning. The first are those which appear in the study program and the second, for their part, are those which life in society brings: interpersonal skills, know-how, life experiences, etc. Education professionals carry an essential mission: they are both delegatees of parental authority and shapers of the future of a society. Here is a heavy mission which only enhances the professions in the field of education!

Google who teaches

A third actor emerges as a teacher: Google and its variations. While I don't have any data in this regard, I'd bet our teens ask him more questions than they can ask the humans around them. Google has this in particular: it is always available, it does not judge the "quality" of the question and it contains the sum of all the knowledge of humanity to such an extent that it unfortunately contains information that our young people do not know. do not need to know: pornography, questionable recruitment, hacking, etc. Despite all this, beware: is this knowledge all valid? Are they all the same? Google, with its strengths and limitations, is an outstanding teacher since it provides direct access to a wealth of information that no human is able to list. In addition, it works in complementarity with parents and school staff in digital citizenship education to contribute to the development of a critical mind. This digital literacy education allows the student to understand that all information is not necessarily equal and that there are ethical rules for targeting the right information as well as methodological rules for exposing it. Google therefore has one major weakness: the information it collects is often decontextualized. Only a human can put them in context. Here is at least a first reason which can lead us to believe that, in education at least, the machine will probably never replace the teacher.

The space that teaches

The other two "teachers" might seem to come from metaphysics, but they take concrete form and they certainly influence what can be taught to our young people: space and time.

In terms of space, a growing number of education professionals are concerned about the role that the physical environment can play in the teaching and learning process of the student. For example, flexible classes are becoming more and more popular in Quebec schools. Indeed, they allow students to choose furniture to support their learning posture. Complete schools are being remodeled and some are even decompartmentalizing classrooms to create large spaces that facilitate the development of certain skills for the 21st.e century, such as collaboration. What seems to matter is to put in place winning conditions to promote this key competence, both between the students and between them and their teacher.

Over the past few years, this has been written repeatedly in professional school literature, but at the risk of falling into the cliché, the classroom walls have to be brought down. Can students collaborate simultaneously with students or teachers from another class? Are the places of school learning confined within the four walls of the classroom?

Also, are all the premises being used wisely? Can they be made available to teachers and students to organize open-ended, cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary learning activities?

In short, space should not be a constraint, but a spearhead of all activities of a school nature, in support of learning and the development of skills!

The time that teaches

Finally, time also has a teaching function for the students. Rather, the way time is organized by the school and its staff influences student learning. Three examples spontaneously come to mind.

First, the learning periods are delimited by bells. The bell rings, the learning activities begin and last until the next bell, fifty, sixty or seventy-five minutes later. Rest activities are governed in the same way, of course. In other words, the student must be willing to learn in the time allotted by the school, and this, on a daily basis.

The other example relating to time is when it is considered as a constraint to “pass the subject”, which directly influences the choice of pedagogical approaches and, consequently, learning perspectives.

Finally, a final example concerns summer vacations. John Hattie's research indicates that these holidays interfere with learning. Why do school years start at the end of August and end in June? Why not review the organization of the school year? Probably one of the goals is to make the pupils' holidays coincide with those of the parents. But why should the school be absolutely closed and not organize any learning activities for the pupils?

School examples in relation to time abound: why are school levels organized by age? Why does the student have to wait at a certain time of the school year to have access to targeted information from the teacher?

To conclude, three observations emerge: first, “human” teachers must work together to support the students' learning process. Also, they must contextualize, criticize and circumscribe the “machine” teacher to help the student to get the most out of it and thus, help him to keep a critical distance from a powerful informational tool. Finally, humans must ensure that time and space cannot impose their organizational yoke. At all times, these two elements must be thought out according to the needs of the student and not according to organizational needs. We must therefore reverse the trend according to which organizational needs dictate the daily lives of students, regardless of their own learning process.

Changing this mindset is an important step towards establishing a caring school.

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About the Author

Marc-André Girard
Marc-André Girard
Marc-André Girard holds a bachelor's degree in humanities education (1999), a master's degree in history teaching (2003) and a master's degree in educational management (2013). He is currently a doctoral student in school administration. He specializes in change management in schools as well as in educational leadership. He is also interested in 21st century skills to be developed in education. He holds a managerial position in a public primary school and gives lectures on educational leadership, pedagogical approaches, change in the school environment as well as on the professionalization of teaching. He took part in educational expeditions to France, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Morocco. In September 2014, he published the book “Le change en milieu scolaire québécois” with Éditions Reynald Goulet and, in 2019, he published a trilogy on the school of the 21st century with the same publisher. He frequently collaborates with L'École branchée on educational issues. He is very involved in everything that surrounds the professional development of teachers and school administrators as well as the integration of ICT in education. In March 2016, he received a CHAPO award from AQUOPS for his overall involvement.

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