Teachers, the Ultimate Knowledge Workers

As I read through the responses of Douglas McCollum, a senior vice president and general manager at Pearson, I could help but sigh, “Why are we still talking about content?”

Anybody fixated on content is living in a bygone era were information was the primary value of education. Today, information is virtually free and accessible any time and any place. Publishing companies are still trying to convince us that if only the content was right (i.e. personalized, customized, more engaging, etc…) that students would learn. That just isn’t true, in 12 years in education I have yet to see content drive anything more textbook companies profits.

Great teachers have always know this and see all texts and media as potential resources. It is through their thoughtful application of psychology, educational theory, and good old fashion grit, they create amazing learning environments. Why then are so many teachers still considered labor? Labor is a cog in factory machine that can interchanged and easily replaced. But a good teacher is not easy to replace. We must strive to categorize teachers as knowledge workers.

Knowledge Worker

A knowledge worker is defined as:

“Knowledge workers are employees who have a deep background and experience, and are considered people who “think for a living.”

If that doesn’t sound like a connected educator, I don’t know what does. Even so lets take a moment to identify how a teacher qualifies as a knowledge worker.

  1. Knowledge Worker always ask: “What is the task?
    Today’s educators are very comfortable with taking a student and various evaluation information to figure out how they are going to reach a student. They have to do this with each and ever student with whom they work.
  2. They have to have autonomy.
    While in some places this is diminishing, educators have the autonomy in their classrooms to do as they see fit. This is a huge responsibility, but most teachers use the autonomy to give their classroom and lessons a distinct focus and feel.
  3. Continuing innovation has to be part of the work and responsibilities.
    Educators are on the front line of society’s rapid social and technological change. Educators are continuously innovating to communicate, collaborate, and teach better.
  4. Required continuous learning and continuous teaching.
    Every great educator sees themselves as a life-long learner and teacher. It is not uncommon to see a 30-year veteran teacher dive into a new pedagogical approach or technology just because they want to stay fresh.
  5. Focus is not on quantity, but the most important concern is quality.
    This is getting more difficult to due with high-stakes testing, but teachers are most concerned with the quality of their students education and the implications it has for the student’s future.
  6. Knowledge Worker to be seen and treated as an “asset” rather than a “cost”.
    Educators are our greatest asset. A site’s staff and school leadership can make or break a community. Educators must not be treated as cogs in the machine.

So you can see that educators easily fit the parameters of knowledge workers. Now we must demand two things.

The first is educator evaluation focused on the qualities and attributes that define them as knowledge workers.

  • Are they innovating?
  • Can they function with autonomy?
  • Are they innovative?
  • Are they task oriented?

Secondly, educators must continue to strive to be recognized as a vital “thinking for a learning” profession. We must focus our efforts on creating processes that leverage the world of information, nurture the affective side of students, and promote educators to be mentors and guides for students and parents. These are the tasks that cannot be reduced to an algorithm and duplicated in mass.

If we can change the image of educators to that of a knowledge profession, it makes us harder to replace, more respected by society, and imparts a philosophy to our students that will serve them well in the information age.

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