I’ve been presenting professional development to some of my instructors for the last couple of days and that means that I am a bit on the brain dead side right now. However, this afternoon, we watched a webinar that presented a pretty apt analogy for teaching, a different take on it than I’ve ever thought about.
The presenter said that teachers are airplane mechanics. Their job is to just get the planes in the air. They may work on fighter planes, or jumbo jets, or crop dusters, or ultralights. Whatever, regardless. The job of the airplane mechanic is to get the plane in the air. Where the plane goes isn’t up to the teacher. We heal them and we get them going.
We aren’t in control of the flight plan. We may think that Denver is a great destination for that particular plane, but perhaps the plane might actually need to head to Akron, Ohio. We’re not in control of how high our students fly or where they wind up. We’re just in charge of getting them in the air.
I’m not sure that I can fully subscribe to the notion, but it has some possibility, I think. There are so many things that ground our students, keeping them out of the air. Their family, their background, themselves. And not every student is on the same path. Not every student needs to be a doctor or a lawyer or go to college. We give students flight, but students and the their choices determine how high the fly and where they land.
I’d like to think that teachers have quite a bit of power to direct a student’s flight. I’d like to think that we can influence students through our encouragement and our choices within the classroom, but students always have to make the choice to take advantage of what we have to offer. We can push students higher than they might want to go, but whether they stay there isn’t up to us. We fight against powerful influences in a student’s life. We don’t even have them for the majority of their days. In a 24 hour period, students might be with us for 6-8 of those hours and only Monday through Friday. That’s a lot of time for everything else to counteract what teachers offer.
I believe in the difference a good teacher can make in a student’s life. I had that. I’d like to believe that I’ve been that for some students. But I fully recognize that teachers and schools can’t do it all. Maybe the analogy does really work…we can give them flight, get them in the air. Beyond that? It’s out of our control. Maybe.
What do you think? What is the role of the teacher? How much are we in control when we’re teaching?