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Teachers vs. educators, what’s the difference


Today’s date marks Leila’s 40th month as one of the most influential educators in my life. I carefully chose the word educator vs. teacher, because I learned in the later years of my career in education – the only teacher in anyone’s life, is the individual, no matter the age.

Yes, it sounds so good to be considered the teacher, especially if the student learns the lesson and moves along the path of life becoming more knowledgeable and wiser. To be considered the teacher, you most certainly do not require a Bachelor of Education – every parent, every employer, every politician, every talk show host, every friend, every… is one whether the role is accepted or not. What happens when the ‘student’ doesn’t get it?

Does the ‘teacher’ internalize and question the ability to be an effective teacher? And then, as does happen for some, begin to question the skill of teaching and take the blame for the choices of the ‘student’; beat themselves up for not being competent. Does the ‘teacher’ project out on the ‘student’ competence and choose to have the ‘student’ own the inability to comprehend the lesson? And there are many a ‘student’ walking around feeling less than because of the perceived failure. Heavy burden to bear for both the ‘teacher’ and the ‘student’!

This is not the first time I have explored the language of the term teacher vs. educator, however, repeating concepts allow time for the reflections to be incorporated and growth of exploration on the topic be reviewed. From early childhood I intuitively knew I would be come an ‘educator’, so for me the school system called me.

In my early years I was blessed with two extraordinary women during the primary years – Sister Theodosia and Miss Dunn. Specific memories are few, however their genuine care and love still are touchstones for me to remember anything is possible. They were the first people outside my huge extended family that created the safe space to explore and simply be. What I learned in the early years from walking, talking, reading, writing to decision-making and problem solving were the results of my efforts and ability to process what was presented. What all of my ‘educators’ provided for me was exactly the same as Sister Theodosia and Miss Dunn – the environment that nurtured the opportunity to learn – safe, healthy, sense of belonging, community, resources, openness, the ability to challenge. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – basic needs were present. Oh! Did I forget to mention some learning experiences come from less than nurturing centres or from our own mistakes? Learning opportunities come in many forms, are we open to the opportunity?

For those of us in the professional fields considered the ‘helping’ or ‘service’ fields, some take the decisions of others and own them; the life situations many presently live can be changed if ‘we’ were more astute, better at doing what we are charged to do, then everyone would have a happy, healthy life. Wouldn’t that be great? Except one of the most difficult lessons I have learned in the past few years, each one of us has our own internal motivating process. My lens is not the lens for anyone else, only for me and to let go of the fact that I can influence the direction of someone else’s life. What I can do is provide a safe place, build trust, model behaviour, listen with open ears, ensure resources are available, and recognize others have the right to live life through their lens. If I am successful in providing the space for growth and awareness, a person may cross paths and recognize within the opportunity to enhance, enrich, and/or change the present path for a purposeful life. Empowerment and motivation belong to each of us and we decide our path.


One challenge in this role of parenting that hounds me, how does ‘no’ impact on Leila’s life? Because we know that ‘no’ is a familiar word we have heard since before we could speak. As we grew how did we choose to challenge the ‘no’, especially during the adolescent years? Did your template follow you into the adult world – at work, at home, in the community? For some the lessons from our early responses made us stronger and wiser, for some the choices led us down a very different path. There is no parenting guide that has all the answers. If the answers were clear some of the services our communities depend upon for safety and security would look different. So my vow to Leila is to continue to search for the answers to ensure she is afforded opportunity to not only succeed, but also to fail. Her life path belongs to her. My job, which I take very seriously, is be the haven, the place she can explore and return to no matter what. This requires me to heal my ‘stuff’ to be present for her.


To Read or Not:

E. Aster Bunnymund and the Warrior Eggs at the Earth’ Core! (Guardians of Childhood Chapter Books) by William Joyce. Leila and I continue to learn about the Guardians of children. Not sure who likes learning more about the characters I am embraced as a child, Leila or I. William Joyce weaves a story that reminds me the value of each of the Guardians for children.


From the World of Film: 

Escape From Planet Earth.  2013 Animation. “Astronaut Scorch Supernova finds himself caught in a trap when he responds to an SOS from a notoriously dangerous alien planet.” Director: Cal Brunker; Writers: Bob Barlen, Cal Brunker; Stars: Brendan Fraser, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Alba. Leila enjoyed the film, so that gives it ‘a thumbs up’. Another animated film that can capture the imagination of both the children and the adults who accompany them to the theatre. Life lessons for family relationships and inclusion are well scripted throughout.


Ti voglio bene
Anna Barsanti is retired educator who is raising her young niece.

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About The Author

Anna Barsanti is a retired educator who is sharing the experiences of raising her niece.

1 Comment

  1. Hally April 10, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    Bravo Anna:) You have finally begun your own journey… I am proud of you!

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