November 18, 2008

Being An Educator, Is It Enough?

What does a second grade teacher and a GED tutor have in common?

They both deal with people whose cognitive and psychological needs and capacities are so different yet in need of the same thing: to be guided through life.


It’s fascinating how much of an impact can our teachers have in our lives. I will never forget my first teacher, Mrs. Helen from 1st through 4th grade, who convinced herself that I was a lost case when it came to math. To this day, I remember myself, an 8 year old, thinking that I didn’t have the talent or skill to do math and plus I really didn’t like math! My new 5th grade teacher was so dedicated (not to mention strict) and actually got me to change my mind about math and end up getting straight A's until I finished elementary school.


Fascinating times! I started junior high school with my confidence boosted and real high objectives. That teacher will always be remembered, because he didn’t settle with the conventional methods of education. The determinant that made him stand out, in my opinion, was that he wasn’t a mere educator but a pedagogue.


The word has a great history. We hear it quite frequently and in different formats such as pedagogical methods or pedagogy. It doesn’t merely describe the educator, the teacher but also the person that really takes you by the hand and guides you through life.


In ancient Greece, the pedagogue was nothing more than a servant at the family’s house, whose mere job duty was to take the children to and from school and make sure their homework and all extracurricular activities were completed. The etymology of the word expresses exactly this action: the composite ped- means child (παιδί) and the second composite –agogue (άγω) means to guide through, to conduct. He was responsible with all aspects of the cultural and educational upbringing of the children of the house and the family thought really highly of him. A famous pedagogue was Aristotle who tutored Alexander the Great in ancient Macedonia.

The main difference between being an educator and a pedagogue: the latter is a broader concept encompassing the first. One cannot be a pedagogue without educating but an educator can easily veer off any pedagogical objectives while teaching.


A pedagogue gives life lessons through the teachings of algebra and marks your consciousness by illustrating how the history of your country is a vital part of who you are. Why can’t we have pedagogues anymore? Is it too vain or unnecessary to demand a broad – spectrum cultivation and enlightenment for us? Or has it become such a strive that we don’t really care anymore?


I believe in the necessity of pedagogy rather than sterile education and the beneficial impact it may have to the human condition. Whether it is children that are being taught at the dawn of their lives or adults looking for second chances, they all need the multi-dimensional approach of a pedagogue.


This post was written by Marina Sapountzoglou, M.D. an aspiring Human Rights Lawyer, active community volunteer and blogger with the Literacy 'n' Poverty Project.

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