wasting bandwidth since 1999

I Don’t Want to Teach

Or train anyone. Don’t ask me to staff develop someone (sounds painful). And I’m not even sure inservice is a real word, much less can be used as a verb.

Looking back through my EduCon notes and listen to some of the sessions I missed, this issue of the words we use to describe our professional practice came up a surprising number of times.

More than a few people, both in sessions and hallway conversations, noted how the verbs “teach” and “teaching” have come to mean a one-way dispensing of information by someone called a “teacher”, exactly the approach many of us who attend EduCon are trying to change.

In my little corner of the education world, where we work with adults who work with kids, the verb “train” is frequently substituted for “teach”, a term that seems far more appropriate when talking about dogs and horses. When discussing a rote set of routines to be replicated.

Or we use the phrase “professional development”, which someone remarked (I wish I could remember who) sounded more like we were building a medical center than helping people learn.

Although he wasn’t specially discussing this topic, Seth Godin recently posted about inaccurate labels and why we need them.

As soon as we put a word on it, we’ve started to tell a story, a caricature, a version of the truth but not the whole truth.

The label removes us from reality. It takes us away from the actual experience. But do we have any choice?

Maybe not, at least when it comes to the labels for our current educational structure that we’ve been using for centuries.

However, if we really want to change school to be more of a shared learning process (a continuing discussion over multiple EduCons), we are going to need some new vocabulary to fit.

Any suggestions?

Image from a Studio 360 project to rebrand teaching. Used under a Creative Commons license.


  1. Will Richardson

    Learn. Unlearn. Relearn.

    While we’re at it, let ‘s relearn:

    Doesn’t almost everything have to be unlearned and relearned right now?

    • Tim

      Thanks, Will. I like the “Learn. Unlearn. Relearn.” concept but I’m not sure how we sell it to our colleagues. And most of the items on your list are already so vague to be meaningless.

  2. Paul Cancellieri


    Yet again you’ve managed to capture an idea that had been bouncing around in my head, and express it more eloquently than I ever could have. I really appreciate the frustration and fatigue that come with the use of these terms. Like you, I think that the solution might be better words or much bigger than that.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Tim

      Thanks, Paul. I’ve also been thinking about how we in education use a whole vocabulary of stagnent words that really don’t describe what we should be doing. I’m just not sure what to replace them with.

  3. Brian Mull

    Lead Learners?

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