Your Kids Need Modern Teacher-Educators, Not Teacher-Dictators (10 Distinguishing Traits)

In a separate article, titled “Is Your Child Learning For School Or For Life?”, I explain why I believe every parent needs to emphasize for his/her child, the acquisition of knowledge/skills that will enhance the child’s ability to succeed in the real world, OVER mere academic ability.

The traditional educational institutions of old (which were mainly geared towards feeding industries with employees), had teachers concentrate on “moulding” learners to meet employers’ requirements.

Teaching methods were generally rigid and rote learning was emphasized – with dire consequences for learners who did not have the “stomach” for it. One notable example which proved the inefficacy of that approach was Albert Einstein, whose failure to demonstrate “learning” competently via memorization made teachers call him “dull-witted”. How ironic, considering that today, the same person is regarded as one of the greatest minds that ever lived.

Incidentally, Einstein did have a few things to say himself about the “Old School” teaching method. Reports have it that once, when asked the question “What is the speed of sound?” by a reporter, Einstein replied: “I don’t know. I don’t carry information in my mind that is readily available in books“. THAT answer in my opinion effectively makes the case for exploration/use of other learning methods outside rote memorization etc.

Some Of Today’s Teachers Still Use “Old School” Methods

Thankfully, over the years educationists gradually realised that the instincts of learners needed to be allowed to play a more influential/leading role in the learning process. Schools consequently adopted new approaches (like Montessori etc) which allowed children freedom to explore and learn by discovery, experimentation through play etc. This change in approach has generally resulted in more long lasting and qualitative learning experiences.

However, despite all the progress that has been made, and the awareness created/reforms adopted, some (presumably) modern day teachers with us today, continue to employ obsolete and inefficient teaching methods from the past in their classes. In the process, their learners are being short-changed on a daily basis.

The difference between old, traditional methods and the modern approaches being advocated has to do mainly with the style of teaching employed by the teacher. To put it another way, the type of teacher determines the type of teaching/learning situation that is created.

Differentiating Between A “Teacher-Educator” And A “Teacher-Dictator”

In my assessment, the foregoing make it important to identify the characteristics of the two main types of “teachers'” I have referred to. This is so as to guide parents/decision makers and even teachers to ensure the RIGHT teaching behaviour is employed at all times. This will ultimately help to create the right learning situation, thereby producing the desired learning output.

Below I offer bullet point descriptions of what I consider distinguishing attributes of the “Teacher-Dictator” (or Traditional Old School Style Teacher) as compared to those of the Modern Teacher who I like to call a “Teacher-Educator”.

Important: Please note that even though I have used these two broad categories/groupings of teacher “types”, in real-life there will be cases of individuals who exhibit traits from BOTH sides of the divide. What is essential is that a person involved in teaching in today’s world be encouraged, to strive to exhibit MORE “Teacher-Educator” traits. This “style” has greater potential to EMPOWER learners to derive life-long benefits from their formal learning experiences.

Acronyms: For convenience/ease of comparison, I have used an acronym to reprensent each teaching style, so that the contrasting traits can be reviewed side by side.

a. The Traditional/”Old School” Style Teacher(Teacher Dictator) = TOSST

b. The 21st Century or MODERN “Teacher-Educator” = MODTE

TOSST – Trait 1. Very often TELLS (but seldom SHOWS practically) the learner how to do something.

MODTE – Trait 1. Frequently helps the learner to “Learn By Discovery” (guiding by example as necessary). Encourages use of natural learning instincts.

TOSST – Trait 2. Is often more concerned about presenting him/herself as the final authority/source of knowledge to the learners.

MODTE – Trait 2. Typically offers him/herself as a guide/coach/mentor who will point out possible directions for the learner to follow on the path to self-discovery.

TOSST – Trait 3. Frequently inadvertently makes (or wants!) leaner to remain dependent on him/her.

MODTE – Trait 3. Will be “popular” for empowering learners to be independent in thinking/actions from him/her.

TOSST – Trait 4. Sometimes recycles teaching aids/materials used, to the point that learners sometimes correctly predict likely “content” to be delivered.

MODTE – Trait 4. Continually exploring new areas of thinking/development as they occur, with a view to discovering better ways to achieve the results desired by his/her learners. There’s always something new/refreshing to learn from him/her.

TOSST – Trait 5. Not inclined towards formal self-development efforts to improve his/her competence. Often feels what s/he already knows will always be more than enough for the learners.

MODTE – Trait 5. Vigorously pursues Self-Development opportunities to acquire new/useful additional KAS (i.e. Knowledge, Attitudes & Skills) to deliver better value to learners.

TOSST – Trait 6. Often more concerned about being part of a teacher-group, and expressing similar ideas to its members.

MODTE – Trait 6. Values his/her independence in deciding what to do to help the learners – even as s/he abides by set rules/seeks input from colleagues to improve quality of learning delivered. Places emphasis on freedom to express his/her own ideas/convictions, and pursue them.

TOSST – Trait 7. Often not comfortable with learners who demonstrate keen desire to explore beyond what s/he has taught or is prepared to teach.

MODTE – Trait 7. Derives great satisfaction from seeing learners demonstrate improved competence based on “discovered” learning achieved via self-directed efforts in their spare time.

TOSST – Trait 8. Tends to emphasise theoretical concepts and classroom based situations. Spares little thought for showing learners how the what they learn can be usefully applied in the real world.

MODTE – Trait 8. Keen to make learning real-world relevant. Helps learners relate knowledge acquired to its application in the real world (E.g. What can we use an understanding of compound interest for in life? How does the nitrogen cycle sustain aquatic life?). This way, learners are better prepared to apply their knowledge PROFITABLY to productive purposes in life.

TOSST – Trait 9. Generally believes that his/her job ends in the classroom and that whatever the learners do outside of it is unlikely to require his/her attention or action.

MODTE – Trait 9. Demonstrates passion for “educating” others around (colleagues, parents etc) about how they can contribute to improving the learning experience for his/her pupils/students etc.

TOSST – Trait 10. Products(learners) turned out often display undue penchant for “rote” learning, with seeming aversion for independent self-expression, and creative thinking.

MODTE – Trait 10.Products(learners) turned out tend to be creative, and independent-minded thinkers – often expressing original ideas with passion, and pursuing self-improvement with enthusiasm.


Decision makers in educational institutions – especially those engaged in provision of early education for young children – in my opinion need to ensure their teachers employ the “Teacher-Educator” style as frequently as possible, if not at all times. The benefits (outlined above) accruable to the children, and the school itself (in terms of quality of learning performances the kids deliver ) strongly suggest there is wisdom in doing this.

Parents will also want to regularly discuss “school/class work” with their kids and possibly make out time to interact with their kids’ teachers to get a feel for the teaching style favoured by the latter. If necessary, they could then gently request needed modifications in the teacher’s approach or work with the kids at home to make up for any shortcomings they identify.

What is most crucial is that learning experiences be made as pleasurable/rewarding as possible for our kids. When they find joy in learning, their desire to continually seek new learning as they grow into adulthood will never diminish. They will, as a result, be able to explore/discover their full potentials over time to the ultimate benefit of the larger society.

FINAL WORDS: It goes without saying that all I have advocated in the article is my personal opinion, and you would be well advised to seek the counsel of competent persons in deciding what line of action to pursue.