Thursday, June 30, 2011

Most Influential Educator?

John Merrow posted his nominations for "Most Influential Educator in America" 2 days ago. Go read it if you haven't. Then realize two things:

  1. Nearly all of these people are not educators. Politicians and businessmen and women involved in education are not the same as educators, regardless of their influence.
  2. The question "who's the most influential educator in America?" is completely absurd.
Now, I understand a lot of people involved in education, especially on the policy-making end of it, are highly influential. Joel Klein and Arne Duncan are both incredibly influential, for better or for worse. They get people talking. But to call either of them an educator is, to me, really missing what it means to be an educator.

In one sense, everyone is an educator. But in the sense Mr. Merrow is using in his post, relatively few are educators. Professional educators are those he is trying to refer to. These would be your classroom teachers, librarians, parapros, etc. etc. Professional educators are those whose job it is to teach. They teach kids, they teach adults, they teach everyone -- whoever their students are, their job is to teach.

These people may also be policy-makers, but in different ways. For me, determining the most influential educators in America would require consideration of people like Dan MeyerPernille RippKate Nowak, and many other teachers who influence not only their own students, but other educators as well.

But beyond who is considered an "educator" is the question being asked. Who is the most influential educator in America? Well, let's think about where their influence would best be directed. Logically, it seems that influential educators are influencing their students. But I am an educator. . .and I'm going to be pretty surprised if I have more than zero influence on a student in central Iowa. I bet there are educators who are incredibly influential to that student, though. How do we leave them out?

You know who the most influential educator was to my students this past year? Me. For better or for worse (and there was a bit of each), I was the most influential educator to them. And next year, it'll be whoever their teacher is then.

The fact is, EVERY TEACHER is the most influential educator in America. To try to single out one, or even a handful, is to be looking at the wrong thing. It doesn't matter "which educator is most influential" -- that's looking at it from the eyes of an outsider to the education process. The view that matters is from the eyes of the students. Each and every individual student in this country. Who is the most influential teacher to them? The one teaching them.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Brian,
    You and I are now following each other on Twitter, and I wanted to tell you that I really enjoyed reading your blog. Your articles are very interesting and well-written. Keep up the great work.