The T word

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I started training to be a teacher back in 1997 at the Institute of Education in London. During our training, we were called Beginning Teachers and everyone, including our school-based mentors, had to constantly stumble over this awkward and ugly phrase. We all wanted to say Student Teachers, of course, but for reasons that were never fully explained, we weren’t allowed.

And there are those who would take issue with another word from the paragraph above: Training. Recently, David Zyngier has tried to police my use of this word. In a comment on a previous post, he wrote, “We train dogs BTW not teachers,” before taking up this issue on Twitter. Zyngier is a lecturer in curriculum and pedagogy i.e. he is responsible for training teachers and I don’t believe this is coincidental to his position.

Training seems like a perfectly serviceable word to me so why am I meant to avoid it?

Cultural cringe

As a profession, teaching clearly has an inferiority complex. And this plays out in the high falutin jargon we employ in a needy attempt to look more serious. This is why we have pedagogy rather that teaching. But I don’t think this serves us well.

Other, grown-up professions have no problem with the T word. Surgeons are trained. So are lawyers. Practicing engineers can participate in some top-up training and so on. The difference is that these professions have nothing to prove. Interestingly, they also are professions where professionals tend to speak for themselves rather than be spoken for by a small army of hangers-on.


Training also connotes the imparting of a set of practical skills and perhaps this is another area where the problem lies. Schools of education don’t seem to be particularly good at this. For instance, there is evidence that at least some Australian education faculties do not equip trainee teachers with the skills they need. A good case in point is the failure to prepare primary teachers to teach reading.

Instead, lecturers perhaps have a tendency to focus on various sociological theories that have no practical consequence or value.

Language police

It tells us a lot when people try to police our language, substituting perfectly good words with others, and so it is always worth asking what motivates this. And the motivation is usually an attempt to exercise control. Do you think teachers need to be controlled in this way?

For my part, I will continue to use the word, training, because it is a good word that accurately describes something that I am keen to write about.


5 thoughts on “The T word

  1. Forever ago, I was a “master teacher,” and the trainees were “student teachers.” Recently I have served as a “co-operating teacher,” and the trainees are “pre-service educators.” People are invested in terminology at the expense of the students.

  2. We now ‘facilitate learning’, or ‘co-construct’ it. “Teaching” is ‘problematic’. If you hang around long enough in this profession you get good at PC phrases. Have you seen the Justin Trudeau clip?

  3. Both educating and training of prospective teachers should be the goal of initial teacher preparation. Surely the profession understands that both are required? (Although not a teacher at the moment, I have a teaching certificate. I’m not trying to belittle the profession – Like you, I’m trying to strengthen it).

  4. Being fairly new to your blog I just wanted to say it is like a breath of fresh air. This post did a great job getting to the bottom of why our profession is constantly changing words for no purpose. What is haopening is beyond comprehension. Is this the result of postmodernism? It’s like in the last 20 years the very structure of the system has been obliterated and replaced with (if I may use a colloquialism) the “feelz”.

    1. I might speculate that postmodernism has something to do with it, but if I did, someone would undoubtedly appear, suggest I don’t understand postmodernism and recommend a book to read. It’s also important to note that many bad ideas in education were around before the advent of postmodernism.

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