An Insight on the Teacher’s Intellectual Responsibility to his/her Students

Diana Kris Gaston Limos

 There is a significantly big difference between imparting knowledge and shaping knowledge. The former suggests the notion of sharing or transferring certain concepts. Whether the way to impart knowledge is dynamic or otherwise, the process of a learner acquiring new information is straightforward. We can think of imparting knowledge as a bottom-up process in which the learner is expected to pick-up or gain specific ideas through understanding whether at the phone level (Tennant, 2017) if the learners are listening or at the decoding level if the learners are reading. The latter concept which is shaping knowledge reflects a top-down approach whether we speak of listening or reading strategies. This requires the learners to use their background knowledge (Tennant, 2017) to solve, respond, or analyze certain ideas. Imparting knowledge and shaping knowledge are both essential in the teaching profession. The former teaches one how to build a wooden spear while the latter teaches one to improve the wooden spear by incorporating other materials such as stone and metal. Both ensure that we don’t just acquire knowledge, we also get to build new knowledge from our previous learnings (Kurzgesagt, 2016). Hence both notions should be taken into consideration by us teachers. This notion raises several questions for our contemporary facilitators of learning:

  1. What are the intellectual responsibilities of the teachers to their students?
  2. Are teachers aware of their intellectual responsibilities?
  3. If not, what can we do to make them aware?

In the Code of Ethics for Professional Teachers, issued by the Board of Professional Teachers through Resolution No. 435 series of 1997 teachers are deemed to be “duly licensed professionals who possess dignity and reputation with high moral values as well as technical and professional competence” (qtd. in Soliven, 2017). However comprehensive and adequate, the said resolution dominantly provides ethical guidelines more than any topic regarding technical and professional competence. There is the matter of the school legal counsel; there are parameters in school contracts; there is a detailed description of a professional teacher’s lifetime commitment in his/her service; there are certain rules on tutoring and examinations; and there is even a notion of a teacher’s humble admission, but there is little to say about a teacher’s intellectual growth which bears the responsibility of imparting learnings as well as shaping them.

We can argue that the status quo of our educational system provides a panoply of ethical principles, but provides little of what a teacher ought to possess intellectually. Any logical assertion from analytic thinkers would lead to the notion that critical thinking can cover the scope of ethical principles; that a rational individual—through his use of epistemological and logical inferences—may recognize what is right or wrong; what is relatively ethical or otherwise. Aside from a teacher’s ethical responsibilities, our concern must also be intellectually based and skill based. Picture a large number of young critical thinkers who do not just settle with picking up concepts, but are able to question such and such concepts. Hence, intellectual growth may be way more favorable than ethical growth. From this, a teacher’s responsibilities will be anchored to what he ought to know, what he ought to improved, and what he ought to shape.

Arguably, a teacher who is aware of his/her intellectual needs gets to focus more on his craft— on his supposed field of expertise—rather than mull over the constructs of ethics and values which are relative matters. Teachers should be given more time to practice their skills, up the level of their knowledge through research, and enhance their critical thinking skills. They are educators, after all. What they mostly need is the power to influence students to develop not what to think, but how to think. And it would be problematic if teachers are given less time and opportunity to focus on such matters. As St. Augustine puts it, “You cannot give what you don’t have.”

And by giving such an awareness to teachers, they can take the initiative to see that inspiring the youth does not stop at molding their characters, rather teachers should inspire students to develop an integrative motivation of becoming critical thinkers; of favoring the spirit of inquiry and logic over anything else. In other words, what our educational system needs is to favor critical thinking more than the virtues of humility.