Role of the Teacher Through Time: Critical Essay

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This essay will be about how the role of the teacher has evolved and developed through time, and the differences from then to now.

From when the idea of teaching began centuries ago to now, the idea of the role of the teacher has changed and evolved to fit that society and time frame. A teacher's role has changed from being a sage on the stage, which is teacher-centered and traditional learning, to becoming a facilitator of learning processes. It is important to evaluate how they have evolved through time to show the different meanings to a teacher.

The role of the teacher today is to act as a mentor, caregiver, and advisor to then educate, inspire, motivate, and encourage children for their future and possible career. The teacher controls the class, encourages the children to do well, is always there to help the students if they need it, and then assesses how the students are achieving or failing. The teacher also organizes the lessons which are meant to feed knowledge into the children but motivate them at the same time. This relates to Hoyle (1969) as he believed that the role of the teacher was in 3 parts: instruction, socialization, and evaluation. Instruction is where the teacher transmits the knowledge and skills to the appropriate child, then socialization is where the teacher prepares that child for that part of society and how they can participate, and then evaluation is where the teacher sees how that knowledge affects them and differentiates them, students.

Different levels of teachers depend on your level of skill and knowledge as you progress through education, so as you get older and more mature, the work will get harder and the impact of the role of the teacher would grow as their input becomes a lot more beneficial. Teachers have multiple roles in teaching to help the development of the child academically and personally. Their ability to help these students depends if they have a strong relationship with their student and if that child has the level of knowledge and skills to carry out the advice (Brown, 2007). Teacher mentoring and advising are more likely to help them in their future education and then when they’re out of education and an adult. So, as you get older, you are to establish and carry out the teachings you have been taught.

A teacher's end goal and aim are to give a guide to their students to educate them, which then allows the students to be the best versions of themselves and boost their confidence and self-esteem. In Dennis Hayes’ book ‘The Role of the Teacher Today’, Ralph Surman, the head of SCETT, states: “It is about developing a relationship with individual children, understanding and acting upon the way that children grow and develop, developing a sound theory of learning as a basis for practice, taking control of our own development and helping to build or rebuild the profession of teaching” (2016, p.8). So, they are not just there to help them intellectually, they are there to help them emotionally, mentally, and socially too. To do this, they develop a relationship with their students.

Teachers do this by having the ‘highest of expectations for all students’ so they can achieve the best they can and ‘attain their highest potential’. While also making this a safe and comfortable environment to be in for that child. This is done by creating an inclusive classroom environment for the children where students can thrive and excel in their work (Deer, 2020). They should always treat children the same depending on their race, gender, ethnicity, religion, etc. A safe and comfortable environment should fit every single child so they can thrive.

Eric Hoyle describes the role of a teacher as a person “whose specialized role in society is to instruct the young” (Hoyle, 1969, p.2). So, he believes that teachers' main role in the job is to prepare the young for society and life through school and after school. Children obviously have the surrounding people that influence their lives, but if these influences are negative or not productive, it may fall to the teacher to push that child to become the best version of themselves, and even if this is not the case, the teacher can still teach them many things that the parent may not able to be. These things may help that child grow.

As Hoyle said, the role of the teacher has massive importance in society as they are responsible for giving information and technical skills from their knowledge, which would come from their generation. Through the “school-society relationship through the perceived ‘function’ of schools’ the social needs they serve in our social system” (Wilson, 2011, p.10). This could then transfer this knowledge and skills onto the new generation that they are teaching.

Before the 21st century, the role of the teacher was different, and it started evolving in the 1960s. The role of the teacher in the past was quite different from now as the teacher was seen as the major source of knowledge and largely limited their role to be this source. It was more focused on success through knowledge through results as in the 19th and 20th centuries “the incomes of schools and the salaries of teachers were largely dependent upon the results of annual tests administered by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate (HMI), not success as a person, their exam results defined them” (Gardner, 1998, p.36). This is called payments by results.

Teachers now try to teach their students skills, alongside the knowledge-based side, which would help them see education as a holistic process, and to this end, require teachers to develop multidimensional skills in their students. Multidimensional skills help “with many factors beyond their core academic knowledge as important contributors to both short- and long-term success” (Blazar and Kraft, 2017, pp.146-170). So, if teachers help children develop emotions and personalities, this will then influence the quality of children’s thinking and how much a child learns in school. This did not happen in the past, teachers followed one way of teaching for every student, which obviously would not fit every child’s needs. This is a big problem with diversity, which wasn’t applied then.

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The teachers in the 19th to the 20th century were seen as greatly unapproachable because of their ways of discipline and their attitude to teaching. As Gardner (1998) states, “...difficulties of establishing a workable classroom relationship have been a constant feature of teachers’ professional practice, the form of such relationships has seen dramatic change” (Gardner, 1998, p.36). This meant that the children would not feel comfortable opening up to that teacher, so the teacher would not act as the mentor, caregiver or advisor to then educate, inspire, motivate, and encourage children. They would just be seen as someone who teaches them knowledge, as that was the basis of education before the 1960s. The teachers ‘eschewed’ closeness between pupils and teachers, and “no worthwhile reform can take place without the positive engagement of teachers”, so it is down to the teachers (Gardner, 1998, p.36).

Traditional education was used from the 16th century with the idea that schools were developed as a place for learning. It was ‘universal and compulsory’ for children, but primary education for the children of the working classes did not exist in any general sense, till the beginning of the eighteenth century. Up until the 19th century, which was the Victorian era, was the main way of education and the poor would only have access to Sunday schools at the church. According to UK Parliament (2020), the church provided children from poor families with another opportunity to receive some basic learning, usually the ability to read. This meant that the role of the teacher for the poor families would be an inexperienced pastor in a ‘charity school’ and they would have a limit on the amount of schooling they had, whereas the middle class would go to ‘grammar schools’ with experienced teachers.

Classrooms from the 19th century to now have many changes in design, layout, and capacity, but kept the characteristic of being a ‘confined space to learn’. From the 19th century to the mid-20th century classrooms were very formal in the way they were set out and how the children had to be in them. The desks were ‘fixed’, which immediately gives off that uncomfortable, strict feeling, so there's no way the teachers would be able to be seen as a mentor to inspire and motivate a child as the children only saw them as someone who gave them information. The teacher is also at the front and middle of the room and there was an obvious distance between the children and the teacher. This shows the level of power and control that the teacher gives off, and they are seen as the main part of the room, ‘overcrowded classes’ and ‘limitations to books and equipment’, so the children were just at a larger disadvantage (Gardner, 1998, p.36).

Stadler-Altmann (2015) states from Steele’s (1973) findings that the classroom’s “physical environment can influence the way teachers and students feel, think, and behave” (2015, p.553). Therefore, the physical environment of the classroom must be strong, so it helps the child’s attitude toward learning. Apparently, this is something that schools of the 19th and 20th centuries lacked due to the harsh layout.

A classroom affects the way a teacher teaches, for example, teachers in the past used to use blackboards and would just ‘chalk and talk’, whereas now they use projectors and the Internet, which allows the teacher to enhance learning quality for their students through a blend of technology and research (Hari, 2018).

According to the UK Parliament (2021), schooling was not made compulsory until the 1870 Education Act. This meant that children from different backgrounds could go to school as it also was made non-religious. This act was the first piece of legislation put in place for the provision of education in Britain, which showed commitment to the British people, as it meant children's education was being taken seriously. School boards were then starting to be established so these schools could be managed and controlled.

This act being put in place is how it led to the problems in classroom such as “pressures of overcrowded classes, fixed classroom furniture and limitations in books and equipment” (Gardner, 1998, p.35). The crowded classrooms were because more children were able to go to school due to government funding, so then more children could then boost that school's academic level, which is what schools wanted to get their salaries from HMI. This would put a very prison-like view on the school: for the school to run, the children needed to be great, and for the children to be great, the teachers felt like they needed to be pushed harder by order, discipline, and regiment. This definitely wouldn’t have been a nice environment for the children physically, mentally, and emotionally, but they would just put up with it as education was put at such a high standard in life, and they weren’t able to get it before.

The evolving role of the teacher through time has allowed the teacher to become more involved with the children that they are teaching and creates a connection with them for the trust and support that the student may need. As Blazar and Kraft (2017) state, “High-quality teachers are thought and expected not only to raise test scores but also to provide emotionally supportive environments that contribute to students’ social and emotional development, manage classroom behaviors, deliver accurate content, and support critical thinking” (p.2). School is not just about learning knowledge now, it is also about that child growing as a person and feeling comfortable in themselves and feeling comfortable in moving forward with their future, and if they’re not, they have the teachers' support to help them through it.

The line between professionalism and personal involvement always needs to be in place so the teacher stays professional without getting too physically or emotionally involved. An idea created by Talcott Parsons was called ‘pattern variables’. Midgley (2016) described pattern variables to provide a way of describing and classifying institutions, social relationships, and different societies, and their values and norms of these. This can be used in the teacher-student relationship, so they don't cross that line. Hoyle’s (1969) explanation of these variables: the idea of particularism vs. universalism (ideas need to be balanced to fit the child), performance vs. quality (the basis of criteria of performance or achievement), affective neutrality vs. affectivity (shows support with the engagement of affect and emotion), and specificity vs. diffuseness (teachers relate to students for a specific, restricted purpose or in a holistic manner). These are the fundamental errors that teachers face when trying to enforce the new role of the teacher, but they always need to make sure that these are maintained in a professional but effective way for the child.

Teachers in today’s generation still care about their students’ academic level and want to push them hard to achieve the best they can, just like in the 19th century, it is just not as harsh now. Things like discipline, way of teaching, and curriculum are all different now and have evolved due to acts and legislations put in place to benefit the child. It is better now as the teachers also consider the child’s feelings and want to help them in ways that specifically fit their needs. As I said, academic achievement is still important, children should still be achieving high grades, so then schools put actions in place for a child with more needs to achieve. Schools still want high grades and good OFSTED reports for the reputation of the school, but they do not just rely on that.

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