Pop Quiz: Teaching vs Professing
If, in conversation with someone, I mention that I teach they generally ask “what grade?” I am quick to say that I teach college, not K-12 and I’m not a teacher. Some have thought that calling themselves a professor is pretentious. When I started to think about this topic as a pop quiz, I googled “teacher vs professor” and found this definition, and thought wow, that IS pretentious!
Key Difference: A teacher refers to a person who imparts knowledge to the students whereas a professor is a teacher of higher learning.
That doesn’t really mean anything, either.
I actually want people to understand that I am not a teacher as we define them here in the US as a K-12 teacher, because I have absolutely no formal training in teaching! I am, in my mind, a professor because I cannot claim the title teacher.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about tenure and how it can protect “bad” teachers at both the K-12 and university levels. In one of our recent required readings, a judge has gone so far as to say tenure is unconstitutional because it protects bad K-12 teachers to the detriment of the students’ right to an education (presumably a good one). This article focuses on professors who are bad teachers, and clearly focuses on the schools where research is of paramount importance. I can say that while there was a “teaching requirement” associated with my doctoral program, I fulfilled it by teaching two lectures in my adviser’s course, which we never discussed. In the US a K-12 teacher needs a bachelor’s degree in education (at least that’s what I understand) to qualify for the job. Tenure for K-12 seems to be 2-3 years of probation with frequent observation on the actual teaching, etc. Tenure for college/university is generally a 6 year process where the professor produces a portfolio of teaching, scholarship, and service to be evaluated by their peers. As many have noted, the focus of that portfolio will depend on the institution and teaching is often not prioritized as part of the package.
The training I have received in teaching, I have sought out on my own, and consists of workshops and conferences, papers and workgroups, piecemeal attempts to get a grasp on how to teach. So no, I am not a teacher, at least in my own eyes. I use the title of professor, not as a way to be “better” than teachers, but to point that out. That may be a cop-out, as if I protest too much, but I am pretty serious that teacher is a title that we should respect a heck of a lot more than we seem to.
Here’s my question to you: who should call themselves a teacher?
The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the afternoon (ET).