The Difference Between a Teacher and an Educator

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Before getting into the more minute differences between a teacher and an educator, I’d like to start with a simple dictionary definition of the two terms. The definition of a teacher is “one that teaches; especially: one whose occupation is to instruct,” while an educator is defined asa person who gives intellectual, moral, and social instructions.” There is a clear difference between these two words, which indicates that there’s a clear difference to the people we apply them to. Many use the two words interchangeably, but that isn’t completely accurate. As I’ve stated in another blog, you can be a teacher and not be an educator, you can be an educator and not be a teacher, or you can be both.

Educating vs. teaching

There’s a difference between teaching a child a list of facts and helping them sincerely understand a lesson. Educators make it their goal to ensure that students fully understand the lesson, while teachers who are not educators merely get through their lesson and hope the students took enough away to pass the class. Educators seek to instill deep understanding in students, the kind of learning that they’ll carry with them the rest of their lives.

Inspiring vs. telling

When a teacher merely focuses on teaching their students and not educating them, it usually results in telling them facts and a way of looking at topics, instead of inspiring the students to take learning onto themselves. Educators often inspire students to pursue their interests and delve deeper into certain subjects. Throughout the discovery process, educators will encourage this development and continue to cultivate any inspiration and interest.

Encouraging growth vs. meeting goals

For many teachers, it’s difficult enough to get through the daily syllabus and make sure students are sufficiently prepared for tests and are also completing their homework. An educator can take all of these goals a step further and encourage their students to grow as individuals in addition to teaching the required subjects and lessons. When working with students, an educator helps them grow in their lives outside of and beyond school, instead of only teaching them the lessons to get them to graduation. True educators teach students valuable life lessons and help them grow and become better people.

I feel confident in saying that the majority of teachers aspire to also become educators, but it can be incredibly difficult, especially in a school that doesn’t provide teachers with enough resources or training to handle a classroom full of children. Becoming an educator takes lots of studying and practice, but it’s definitely an admirable goal to strive toward.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Becoming an Educator

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Becoming an educator is a major decision because it places a lot of responsibility on you. You aren’t just a teacher; you’re an educator, though the considerations for the two positions are similar. Check out my previous blog to learn more about the differences between being an educator and being a teacher. When you choose to become an educator, you’re committing to helping students work toward their dreams and accomplish goals with your help and support.

Are you willing to commit all of your time?

Ask any educator and they will tell you: working in this industry is a full-time job and will keep you occupied outside of regular work hours. Some people go into teaching and education for the early afternoons and summers off or the incredible benefits. While these are all great perks, you need to realize that being an educator is a huge time commitment. You need to work with dozens, likely hundreds, of students who all have their unique issues. Planning out lesson plans and how to interact and manage different students takes significant time. If you’re seriously committed to becoming an educator, you also need to take time to continue learning and taking classes.

Can you deal with difficult people?

As an educator, you’ll spend a significant amount of time around students and their families. Sometimes, you’ll have difficult students (or parents) who just don’t understand your position or your mission. You might have to work with negative teachers or administrators. It’s important that you know how to work with these difficult and negative people to accomplish common goals.

Do you have a positive and patient attitude?

Being an educator can be stressful, especially when you’re dealing with difficult people. Sometimes you’ll be tired, have a million things to accomplish before the end of the day, or will feel discouraged about what you’re doing. It’s important that you have a positive outlook and a decent amount of patience to keep the big picture in focus and work through whatever obstacles are in your way.

Can you manage your time well?

Since you’ll be busy as an educator and constantly have various tasks to complete, it’s vital that you’re organized and have incredible time management skills. Luckily, you can teach yourself time management skills and conquer this specific block in your path toward success as an educator.

And, most importantly:

Do you want to help children succeed?

At the end of the day, the real goal of being an educator is to help children succeed. Leading children on a path toward success is the purpose of all educational institutions and it should also  be the end goal of the people who work at these places. If you have a passion for education and truly want to help mold the leaders of tomorrow, you’ll be able to overcome any other issue you encounter throughout your career as an educator. Keep your mission in the forefront of your mind and you’ll be able to make it through the more challenging  aspects of being an educator.

Top Podcasts for Educators

Robert Peters Top Podcasts for Educators

Podcasts are a great way to work on your professional development, stay in touch with current news and trends, and come up with creative ideas for your classroom. Nearly every profession and hobby have a few podcasts about the industry and education is no exception. If you have spare time, such as during a commute, while grading papers, or when you’re cooking dinner, listening to a podcast about how to be a better educator can greatly benefit you. While there are quite a few education podcasts out there, here are some of the top ones.

Free Teaching PD

This podcast features speakers who are leaders in the education industry and each week has a different speaker. They discuss the latest ideas and innovations in teaching and help you work on your own creativity. After listening to this podcast, you’ll feel inspired to try your own hand at coming up with some great ideas to enhance education.

Talks With Teachers

Brian Sztabnik, a former English teacher and blogger, hosts this podcast. The podcast features educators who feel passionate about their profession and wish to discuss their own classrooms. A theme for 2016 was focusing on educators who also run their own blogs and what it’s like being a teacher who regularly blogs. The speakers are all from different areas and have varied work experience, so it’s always interesting to hear their insights into education.

Angela Watson’s Truth for Teachers

This podcast focuses specifically on the issue of burnout with teachers and how it can be avoided. Watson’s podcast provides a way for stressed teachers to feel understood and realize that lots of other people feel the same way they do. The podcast also offers possible solutions to issues that teachers may face in the classroom.

The Cult of Pedagogy

In this podcast, Jennifer Gonzalez features not just educators, but also parents, administrators, and students who discuss teaching and the classroom. The podcast covers a wide range of topics, from technology use in the classroom to the best ways to manage your classroom. If something is related to education, this podcast has or will feature it.

Every Classroom Matters

Vicki Davis, an incredibly influential educator, runs this podcast and focuses on incorporating technology into the classrooms and creating stronger relationships with students. Her podcast also covers how to feature STEM in the classroom more, as well as teaching students the basics of coding. She’s been ranked as a top teacher, so this podcast is definitely worth listening to.

How Teachers Can Create a Work-Life Balance

Robert Peters How Teachers Can Create a Work-Life Balance

All too often, teachers experience burnout. Teaching can be an incredibly stressful job, putting in long hours and working with dozens of students each day. Teachers also often struggle with keeping work separate from home, because they need to grade homework and prepare lesson plans, which is difficult to find time for during normal workday hours. The issue is further complicated for teachers who are also coaches or advise extracurricular activities. These teachers frequently stay after regular hours to run practices or meetings and often make themselves available to students at all hours and on the weekends. With so many responsibilities, how can teachers find a stable work-life balance?

Learn to say “no”

First off, you need to learn to prioritize as an educator. If you already have too much to do and are stressed, you don’t need to take on the role as an advisor for another student group. It’s important to connect with your students and support them, but you won’t be any help if you take time off or leave teaching entirely due to burnout. Even if your supervisor asks you to take charge of something, unless it’s a vital responsibility, do not be afraid to turn it down and focus on keeping a healthy balance between your personal life and work.

Keep yourself healthy

One of the biggest issues with burnout is that teachers become exhausted from working too much. Make sure you’re taking the time to de-stress and getting plenty of sleep. Fit some time to exercise into each day and also make sure you’re eating healthy. Cut back on caffeine and pack yourself nutritious lunches. Having a balanced diet, exercise, and enough rest will give you extra energy.

Here’s a website with great blogs about staying healthy and reducing your workload as an educator.

Create a support system

You work with plenty of other teachers who understand exactly what you’re going through. Rely on them as a support system. You can vent to them about difficult students and ask their advice on how to manage a work-life balance and any tips they might have about easing your workload. You also have friends and family outside of work who care about you and can help you de-stress. If you have a roommate or spouse, ask them for their help and support as well, especially with duties around the house. Working as a team will make finding balance much easier.

Don’t bring work home

While this step may be hard, there are ways to do it. Lots of teachers with families and busy lives outside of work have managed to avoid taking their work home. By learning to say no and prioritizing their responsibilities, many teachers do not have work to do outside of the usual workday hours. Improve your organization and time management skills and eventually, you’ll be able to avoid bringing work home, so you can create an even better work-life balance.

Technology Resources to Use With Students

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Technology has become more prevalent in our world than ever before. Now, nearly every person has a smartphone and understands how to use a computer. This flourishing of technology has been seen in schools as well. Most students have personal cell phones and can navigate a school computer with ease. It’s a common experience for teachers to struggle with trying to get students to pay attention in class instead of to their smartphones. Instead of forbidding the use of technology in the classroom, here are some great resources teachers can use that combine technology and learning.

Figment

This site offers students a chance to publish their own writing of any kind and then receive feedback from other students. They can also comment on and discuss others’ writing that’s posted on the site, though it’s important to note that not all the content is appropriate for school or all ages, so you might want to check it out yourself before using the site. There are all types of writing on this site, so you may want to encourage young writers in your class to check it out.

Glogster

Students can create their own interactive posters on any topic and customize them as they see fit on this site. It can be used online as well as with a mobile app. Your students can easily add text, links, audio, video, and images to their Glogster and play around with the many features the site offers. It gives them a chance to be creative, while also creating an educational tool for a presentation or project.

CNN Student News

CNN offers informative news clips that cover current events and are only ten minutes long. You can start the day with watching the daily clip with your students and then have discussions about the events or ask a few questions about what they learned.

Free Rice

This website is a fantastic way for students to review different topics and also help out a good cause. FreeRice.com donates 10 grains of rice to the hungry for every answer you get correct when using the site. And yes, it’s legit. You can choose from math, humanities, English, chemistry, geography, sciences, and even various languages. It’s a great way to give students some downtime while also having them work on something relevant to class, but also fun. You might want to offer some kind of prize to the student who has the highest amount of rice at the end of the week or month.

DIY

Students can learn more about topics they’re interested in and also discover new passions through this site. It allows them to complete challenges and earn badges and can also be connected to an adult account so a students’ parents and teacher can follow their progress. The environment is completely safe and gives students the chance to learn more about themselves and what they want to do in the future. After students complete a challenge, you can have them create a tutorial or short presentation on what they learned.

Check out this list for even more technology resources for your classroom.

How to Keep Students Motivated During Winter

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Winter is a particularly difficult time to keep students motivated. After the holidays, the colder months of January and February set in and there’s no break in sight until sometime in spring. It’s hard to get students to focus at this time of year, especially when trying to prepare them for state tests and finals in their classes. Instead of stressing out over your students’ lack of desire to learn, try these tips to keep them motivated in the upcoming months!

Remain Positive

Even though you may not feel like coming into work every day, it’s important that you remain upbeat for the students who you’ll be teaching. Show them a positive attitude and act excited about what you’re talking about, but you can also acknowledge that you know it’s a tough time of year to focus on learning. Give them positive reinforcement when they do something well and try to make them feel good about their work.

Give Rewards

By occasionally rewarding your students, you’ll motivate them to continue working and doing a good job in their studies. Maybe offer candy or a small prize for reaching certain goals. You can also give them a movie day or a specific amount of time where they can talk and hang out instead of focusing on an actual lesson. Rewarding students gives them a much-needed break.

Watch Films

Students find it much easier to spend time looking at a screen and visually absorbing information instead of having to listen to their teacher lecture. Most children can recount endless amounts of information and quotes from their favorite movies or television shows, so you know those skills are developed. Incorporate educational documentaries into your lessons and students will learn more and feel more at ease. Tailoring your lesson plans to the season will help you combat the lack of motivation in students.

Let Them Decide

When students have the opportunity to be hands-on with their own learning, they’ll be more invested in the subject. You can give students a list of topics that need to be covered during the next few weeks and let them choose in which order they want to learn about them. Provide opportunities for them to be involved in their own learning – they’ll be thankful for it and more motivated.

Change it up!

Some variety is always a good thing because students’ brains will immediately recognize the change and register it. Switch around the desk arrangement or redecorate the classroom. Give students something different and they’ll feel as though it’s an entirely new experience, not the same class they’ve been in for the last few months. Providing students with variation will prevent them from feeling bored and helps them give their attention to your teaching.

How is Technology Improving Education?

Within the world of education, we talk a lot about integrating technology into the classroom. We discuss how to implement it, what kind of technology we should be using, and how to take an ordinary lesson and spice it up with technology. You will see a lot of this discussion online, in blogs like this, or through the media. Assuming you’ve heard things like this in the past, one thing you may not have considered is, the improvements tech actually makes. It’s great to talk about how to do it or what we need to improve, but let’s take a moment to talk about what the impact has been so far.

Global Learning

Technology connects people all over the world in an instant. It is no different in a classroom setting. Teachers all over the country are using tech to video conference classrooms around the world. We are able to teach culture and experience new places in lightning speed. Additionally, learning new languages becomes a breeze with online tutorials and language videos at the touch of a button.

Collaborative Learning

Collaboration is easier than ever in our tech filled classrooms. Teachers use Google drive to share documents with the class. Then, students can access shared files to work on projects with each other inside and out of the classroom. Additionally, teachers are using tablets to broadcast up close lessons or tech based learning directly onto individual tablets. Students are following along and interacting with the classroom through the use of mobile devices.

Smart Boards

The old archetype of students clapping out chalkboard erasers is a thing of the past. You’ll be hard pressed to find a classroom still using chalkboards as their main classroom visual. Nowadays, it’s more common for you to see smart boards in the classroom. Smart boards are an excellent piece of new tech. Teachers can project images from the web, electronically draw on them, and even save and disperse the notes to the entire class.

Personalized Learning

With more schools providing tablets for each student, teachers are building out more personalized lessons. Students can choose learning paths that work for them through the use of apps, as well as, through student centered project assignments. Teachers are even using tech to target student progress and learning styles.

Introverts in the Classroom

Most often, when we talk about trends in education, there is a big shift towards student centered learning. By this, we mean group projects, classroom discussions, and even seating arrangements that resemble little pods of students. Naturally, this shift has had positive reactions from students and teachers alike. The only group we fail to ask input from are the introverted students. This blog will explore introverts and what kind of education best serves them.

What is an introvert?

An introvert is someone who is extremely introspective, has a deliberate need for solitude, and is a more effective written communicator than conversational. Introverts also spend a fair amount of time reflecting on the world around them to sort out all the stimulation we face every day.

Solitude is extremely important to introverts. When introverted people are out in the world interacting with other, they become drained from overstimulation. Part of this is due to the consistent reflection and introspection that comes naturally to them. It can be exhaustive to work through every interaction, sound, and environment change. The retreat to solitude allows them to process the day and recharge. This last part is extremely important when it comes to a classroom setting.

Recent shifts

Recent trends in education have turned towards a much more extrovert focused system. You have heard buzzwords like, flipped classrooms, student centered learning, and project based learning, which all focus on group interaction and discussion. For an introvert, this can be extremely exhausting! Especially if every classroom moves towards this type of learning. For introverts, a six hour period of interaction and stimulation can be hard to process. We need to begin doing things to help out students escape this, even for a little while, to recharge and engage in the next lesson.

Here’s a few things we can work on:

Quiet spaces

Make a space or time within your classroom that is for quite, individualized learning. This could be a reading nook or just a dedicated area that enforces a strong “individual, quite learning only” policy. You may find introverted students heading here after a particularly noisy lesson or after a group project. They are going to recharge, process the day, and will be ready to tackle the next group activity in no time.

Think first, then answer

Create a classroom policy that is “think first, answer later.” This gives all students a time to reflect and come up with their own answers before someone else has the opportunity to shout out the first thought in their head. This not only helps introverts process, it also teaches the rest of the classroom how to apply deep learning techniques to even the simplest of tasks.

Evaluating the 4 day school week

The idea of a 4-day school week is not a new one, but rather an old idea that’s gaining traction lately. Some districts and individual schools have run pilot programs to see the effects of a 4-day school week. Part of the decision stems from the hopes of increasing attendance rates and also as an effort to save money. No matter what the motivation is, there are pros and cons to a 4-day school week. Here are some of the implications of shaving a day off the traditional model.

Pros

Improves attendance – Going down to a 4-day week has been proven to increase attendance. Less students are skipping school because they are receiving an extra day to themselves each week. Additionally, with the extra day off, parents are less likely to pull their children from school to go to doctor appointments.

Encourages responsibility – A shorter week does not mean less work. There is more expected of students and a 4-day week encourages an increase in personal responsibility. Students must also think more seriously about their understanding of a subject. If it is Wednesday, for instance, and there is only one more class period before a big test, students must prioritize their time to get their questions answered before the week comes to a close.

Opens up time for interest based learning – With the additional day out of the classroom, students are free to pursue interest based learning. This may result in a part-time job, taking up a new hobby, or shadowing a professional. No matter path of interest based learning a student decides to follow, they now have more time to devote to it.

Cons

Longer school days – A 4-day school week means longer school days. The same amount of information needs to be taught, but with one less day a week. This can put a lot of stress on teachers and students. Younger students especially, may have a difficult time with staying focused and engaged for a longer day than what they have grown accustomed to.

Raises childcare concerns – For younger students again, 4-day school weeks are not ideal. One less day in the classroom means that parents need to find consistent childcare for that extra day while they are at work.

Costs parents – Piggybacking off of the childcare concerns, a shorter week unloads a financial burden onto the parents. They now are responsible for childcare, lunches, and transportation on a day they have to work. If childcare cannot be secured, parents may be forced to change their schedules and, in turn, earn less money.

How Machine Learning Will Affect Education

Machine learning falls under the larger umbrella of Artificial Intelligence and is taking education by storm. Machine learning algorithms are nothing new, but their implementation into the educational realm is. Educators are starting to use and encourage others to do the same for a number of different tasks. Below, you will see a few ways teachers are starting to use and develop machine learning algorithms to help them every day.

Scheduling

Algorithms can be programmed to optimize schedules for both teacher and students. If a student is struggling in English and needs one on one attention. The program can quickly sift through everyone’s schedule and the student’s availability to get them the help they need. Instead of taking the time to do it all manually, a student can ask for help and walk out minutes later knowing when they will get it. This may not seem like a lot, but it can make all the difference.

Grading

When it comes to grading, teachers have been looking for a better way to do it for decades. Now with machine learning, even open ended questions can be graded. Teacher will feed the algorithm with the information they are looking for and if a student has hit those points, the machine can grade it. This does not completely eradicate grading by hand, but it can cut down the work significantly. With the help of machine learning, our teachers will now have more time to give personalized instruction and tutoring.

Student Data Analysis

Schools are already collecting a lot of student data. We records things like their grades, attendance, and behavior, so why not feed it all to a machine learning algorithm to help predict learning paths, points of struggle, and even have it recommend a solution based on what the data is telling us. When we get our students’ data to work harder for them, we learn so much more about how to best educate them.

Identifying Areas for Improvement

Finally, with machine learning, we can give algorithms data about processes, the school structure, or anything related with the behind the scenes work that makes a school run. Then with that information, we can identify what areas need the most attention. Things like where money is being wasted and identifying what lessons have been largely ineffective. From there, we come up with solutions and make our schools and education better and better!