Teacher to Learner: The Power of Words

This post was originally posted on Figuring It Out by Johnny Bevacqua

As we march ahead in education, navigating a changing landscape – imposed by a variety of forces (e.g mobile, web based and social technology, economic shifts, globalization, etc) – I am sometimes asked for my opinion on what will make (or has made) the biggest impact on our ability to re-image (or re-imagine) education and school.

My answer has been somewhat consistent:

A teacher’s disposition as learner first, is the greatest factor in our ability to re-image school.

This got me thinking about the power of words.  What if the word “teacher” was replaced by the word “learner”?

I believe that words are powerful:

“A picture can tell a thousand words, but a few words can change its story.” Sebastyne Young

This video, on the power of words, magnifies this message beautifully: 

So, what if we replaced the word “teacher” with “learner” in all its contexts?  Would it assist teachers in coping with some the changes occurring in education? Would it impact learning in schools and classrooms? Would it impact pedagogy? What impact would this have on students?

In an effort to have a little fun, here are a few common expression with the word “teacher” and an amended version with the word “learner”:

Common expression with the word “Teacher”

  1. Teacher
  2. I teach.
  3. I am a teacher.
  4. I teach students
  5. Those who can, do.  Those who can’t teach.
  6. I don’t teach curriculum. I teach students.
  7. I am a (insert grade level or curricular area) teacher.

Amended version – replacing “Teacher” with “Learner”

  1. Learner
  2. I activate learning for my students.
  3. I am an agent of learning for my students.  Ultimately I want them to be free agents with their learning
  4. I am a learner who learns with and about my students…
  5. Those who can, do.  Those who can’t learn.
  6. I learn about how students learn.  I am an activator of learning for my students.
  7. As a passionate learner of (insert curricular/content area) myself, I activate learning for my students in…(insert curricular/content area)

Is this a small, silly or superficial thing?


However, I would contend that, when we see ourselves as learners first we can more easily live and embody a growth mindset for our students.  When we see ourselves as learners first, we don’t see change as a threat but rather as a way of being.  When we see ourselves as learners first, we are passionate about learning and want to share that passion with our students and colleagues.

By being learners first,we can more readily allow our students to be free agents with their learning – something our children and students will require throughout their life.

Still figuring it out……


  1. John Mann said:

    Great post. I loved the video as well. In the same spirit, I adapted your idea for Learning Leaders.
    1. Learning Leader
    2. I activate learning with the students in mind.
    3. I am an agent of learning for my staff. Ultimately I want them to be free agents with their own learning.
    4. I am a learner who learns with and about my staff.
    5. Those who can do. Those who can’t, learn. Those that can do might be able to lead but those that can learn can learn to become a Learning Leader.
    6. I learn about how my staff learns.
    7. As a passionate learning leader, I activate learning in my staff.

    April 20, 2014
    • Thank you for taking the time to comment, share your thinking and extending it to Learning Leaders. I will have to use this in the future!

      April 22, 2014
  2. April Scott said:

    Becoming a learning leader lends itself beautifully to service learning.

    April 21, 2014
  3. Don Gately said:

    Brilliant articulation of a powerful idea that has been taking hold in the connected educator community for some time now. Thanks! I agree. How do we facilitate this shift? That is the challenge for leaders.

    April 21, 2014
  4. Vick Myers said:

    Many people who beocme teachers do so because they love learning- and that’s what they need to hold on to as they embark on a career of stimulating, enabling and sharing learning. Seeing yourslef as a learner means every day is rich with possibilities as you continue to learn about the world, your subject area and mot importantly your students.

    April 24, 2014

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