August 12, 2020
"Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher." — Japanese proverb
The sudden shift to remote learning in March upended the lives of families and educators across the country. Parents and other caregivers of school-age children were brought face-to-face with a truth that too often gets buried under the myriad issues that beset education: teaching is hard.
Teaching is more than presenting content
Teachers have not only knowledge of the subject areas they teach, but also of pedagogy, child development, and a wide range of other topics. Effective teachers also have deep knowledge of and regard for their students and the communities in which they live. And they care about their students while remaining clear-eyed and objective enough to assess their progress and determine how to best meet their needs. The interpersonal connections teachers are so skillful in forming are a secret ingredient in translating their professional expertise into student learning.
The involvement of skilled and caring educators is crucial to student learning and success. Anyone who has ever had a great teacher knows this to be true. Effective teaching is so much more than presenting content to students. And yet, there is a creeping argument in education for implementing “teacher-proof” learning experiences. Many such programs promote self-paced or “individualized” digital learning that sidesteps educator involvement.
Minimal teacher involvement should not be considered a program benefit in financial education
One subject area in which this trend is apparent is financial education. Too frequently, financial education programs tout minimal teacher involvement as a benefit. In fact, in a subject area like financial education in which meaningful learning can only take place when students’ personal contexts are interwoven throughout the program, dedicated educators play a vital role. Educators who know and care about their learners can facilitate the formation of the critical connections between personal characteristics, varied economic environments, and financial information, that make financial education relevant.
Part of the case for side-stepping teachers in financial education is based on the argument that most teachers are not experts in finance. Conversely, however, neither are financial professionals experts in education. While the efforts of financial professionals in creating classroom programs or volunteering to provide instruction may in many cases be well intentioned and even admirable, they are not adequate substitutes for professional educators.While robust professional development can provide teachers with the knowledge base they need to teach financial education, becoming skilled in pedagogy takes years of professional study and experience.
Teachers possess the professional expertise to translate content knowledge into student learning. More, through regard for their students, the best teachers build interpersonal connections that help their students thrive. Far from “teacher-proofing” education, or reducing it to the transmission of content, we should invest in teachers as invaluable assets in education. We should celebrate the tremendous value that teachers bring to the hard work of educating students.