What Teachers of Substance Have To Celebrate On Teacher’s Day


Myths, Sorcery, & Influence in the Digital Age


This is a timely post for Teacher Appreciation Day celebrating what’s REALLY happening in professional development online.

It’s also a response to professionals and academics out there who still have trouble finding their footing in the digital age. There is some lingering confusion out there as to what teachers actually do online, the substance of their work and why it should make any difference. Some of this confusion manifests itself in the phenomenon of using old yardsticks to measure new dimensions on the cusp of a new frontier. Today, on Teacher Appreciation Day, I will share what we are proud of, as well as address questions of substance and ‘sorcery’😉


magic cauldron



Professional Engagement Online

This is a story of power and influence. Not the kind of egocentric power we may associate with cut-throat business, but that of collective people power. Professional development initiatives online are bringing teachers together from all over the world. Experienced veterans in the ELT field who have established a strong online presence are working together to share their ideas with teachers on the ground.

In the not so distant past, this knowledge and experience was very hard to come by without paying an arm and a leg for it. As for ideas, why would anyone give away ideas? For free?

New definitions of power

As we celebrate teacher’s day today, I feel it’s imperative that we should take a fresh look at the educational landscape. Power no longer means holding the monopoly on information and ideas. Power lies in sharing positive influence and celebrating the fact that those you influence will rise to the occasion and create better things than you have created. The new creations will be celebrated collectively and used to enhance classroom experiences all over the world. The power of sharing online cannot be over-estimated. It is a sea-change occurring beneath the crusty surface of a disgruntled academia still stewing in papers and citations.

Positive Influence

Positive influence is all about humanizing action research through the eyes of others.

Those who appear to be ‘magically’ building viral reputations online are simply in tune with the essence of collective teacher integrity. They are able to transmit this to others. They can tap into the minds of others through empathy and experience. If what they do is relevant, it will catch the public imagination. Not everything we do all of the time can be relevant to everybody everywhere because sometimes we need to go back to our own minds to reflect and explore the introspective terrain. Yet this ‘rest’ from social interactivity serves to refuel batteries for more inspiration and more sharing later.

In this dance between introspection, privacy and more public leadership, teachers of substance have a vision beyond fads and votes. Popularity is good only if it makes a difference. Substance comes in many shapes and forms. Popularity does not mean lack of substance or entail some kind of social media manipulation. Lack of public presence, conversely, is neither here nor there. It’s a choice, a temperament, and another kind of magic presence from the inside out.

Whether you see yourself as  a public figure or a quiet thinker with your own quiet revolutions, the goal is the same and the magic is the same; true inspiration for true learning.

Then there are those touching moments: video by students of MJ Gsm

Some examples of professional development initiatives online are the MOODLE MOOCs on WiziQ, ELT-T MOOCs, Spring Blog festival, Reform Symposium RSCON, The Electronic Village Online, The Edugoal Movement, The Virtual Round Table Convention, British Council Webinars, IATEFL webinars, and Harrogate online  livestreaming events.

Dehumanisation and the competitive spirit.

Before the world became connected we lived in separatist enclaves of the mind. Closed systems reflected closed minds and closed minds perpetuated closed systems. We had elitism versus the hordes. We had white collar supremacy and intellectual ivory towers warding off the masses. The masses were shallow, mainstream drones happy to believe what they watched on tv. The establishment happily made sure to feed their drones enough addictive nonsense to ensure the survival of this policy of mindlessness.

The prevailing mindset was an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality. When we are psychologically or physically removed from others, it creates a sense of dehumanization. We categorise groups, nations, and sectors of society without feeling or emotional engagement. This is dehumanization and it is actually a scary part of the human make-up. This feeling of separation is what breeds a harmful competitive spirit where ones value can be felt only through temporary, hollow accolades. When some traditionalists see online professionals share their work online or see their tech-savvy influence, they tend to equate hits and statistics with some kind of incessant game of one-up-man-ship. Yet, any online professional will tell you that this shallow mentality would burn you out in a matter of months and it is also one reason why many of us work together for something greater than statistics.


Sorcery is social

people power

We can no longer refer to ‘the masses’ as ‘drones’ in all good conscience.

The ‘masses’ have been disempowered, dumbed down, and manipulated through bureaucracy and elitism for too long. Today, any teacher from any country, school or situation with an internet connection can hook up with the best minds in the business and gain inspiration. Then they become the best in their business and better than the best. They share their best, and so it goes on.

Here’s an example of dehumanization from a book I’m reading called ‘Mindwise’ – How We Understand what Others Think, Believe, Feel and Want by  Nicholas Eply

A case study of workers in a General Motors plant showed statistics of the worst-ever performance from workers. The managers of the plant referred to the workers as no-mind idiots who were only in it for the money. Employees had no control over their work, were given no understanding of how the business worked and worked as isolated cogs day in day out. Morale and morals were at an all-time low.

Then a change in management brought in professional development, inspiring training programmes, workers had a say in organizing things and were trusted to make smart decisions. There was, of course, a massive turnaround in excellence.

I see the situations teachers have to work under in some places today to be the same as those of the dehumanized workers. If teachers are dehumanized, then what of the students under their care? If colleagues dehumanise each other, then what of pride in the profession?


So, what do teachers of substance have to celebrate on teacher’s Day?

1) Professional development opportunities.

2) Supportive networks.

3) Pride in accomplishment and sharing.

4) Opportunities to publish and help students publish.

5) Breaking down barriers and humanizing corrupt systems.

6)An evolution in educational consciousness.

7) Knowing that teachers of tomorrow will succeed through the power of psychology applied to education.

8) Empathy  bringing about real creativity.

9) Creativity  bringing  integrity into the educational mindset.

10) New generations of citizens who will be better than us.

The Academic Heart




Finally, we can celebrate knowledge in all its forms. Intellectual, social, emotional, psychological and humanistic. We are complex beings. We need to open up. Personally speaking, I often gravitate toward intellectual debate and need the company of thinkers to keep my inspiration alive. I read, question and seek out intellectual discourse.

Yet there are times when I feel that intellectualism is biting the intelligence that feeds it. I have found it most succinctly expressed by David Deubelbeiss, and this is what I really wanted to share with teachers today.

DD Damage

You can read David’s article about Teaching and Learning Online: Three Myths busted here. David Deubelbeiss  is an educational leader in the field who has done much to inspire teachers everywhere.  Yet he gives us the impression that he wants to be seen  as an ordinary teacher who champions ordinary moments so that we can have  extraordinary results. Check out the amazing breadth of his work here.

Relationships are the key:

“Give your brain a hand”

Nicholas Eply

Teachers of substance live in the love of the common people.

Love of the common people ‘ is a folk ballad about  poverty popularised by Paul Young in 1983. One way to breach materialistic divisions in society is through education and escaping from the poverty of intellectual, cultural and linguistic oppression.

We can celebrate being ‘common’ as in ‘connected’and we can celebrate being uncommonly free.

appy Teacher’s Day!!!

What do you think you’ve got to celebrate? Why not share your stories below:)

Sylvia Guinan

is an online English teacher, writer and blogger who facilitates professional development online. She uses brain-friendly techniques to help students and teachers around the world. She designs educational materials, develops courses, writes resource papers and publishes ebooks. Her work is the result of much research into the psychology of learning, as well as hands-on experience with multi-media technology.

8 thoughts on “What Teachers of Substance Have To Celebrate On Teacher’s Day

  1. My business is thankful to you personally regarding providing the understanding of

    the actual trainer’ersus evening. It upon educator’S time is usually real supporting

    which is useful for us in getting ready my own instructors evening conversation.

    1. Thank you for linking to my article though people may be confused as to the authorship if you don’t mention the fact that I this piece.

      Sylvia Guinan – official blogger @ WiziQ.

  2. Thanks for commenting Nick:)

    Yes, your comments are very interesting and Torn’s resistance and opposition statement about intellectual development is also something I want to hear more about.

    Your points are very clear, valid and logical and will certainly help me to delve into these clashes in vision.

    As part of the ‘new wave’ who comes from an old wave, I think I’m in a fair position to try and mend the academic heart!!

    There is some truth in each of your points – and you are right about the ‘other way around’.

    I felt it myself that I was an example of the ‘us- them’ by virtue of writing as an online teacher and because I couldn’t think of any word to say other than traditionalists – which is a label – I prefer ‘gatekeeper;’)

    Quality control is very tricky but we could use the same yardstick of using one’s qualifications – for example I’m a qualified teacher offline or online. There are others who are not qualified in an obvious, official sense but who are gifted cross-overs from other disciplines or walks of life – they are the ones who tend to prove themselves more through substance. Qualified teachers who reach a certain status can get complacent, though one thing about working online is that no one can afford to be complacent and that’s another article worth writing.

    So, either you are qualified and good/exceptional, or unqualified and exceptional – or else a chancer spamming the internet. You are speaking of that – the internet plague of misinformation or downright low quality dressed up to kill.

    A very interesting concept in the book, Mindwise, is the Lens of Expertise – when you know something far too well and intricately to ever share it or teach it properly to someone else – ‘The Curse Of Knowledge’ – which fits nicely into the sorcery theme.

    Sometimes academics try to dictate to teachers how to do something in an abstract sense and teachers have their own practical lens of expertise and just KNOW that the academic lens is best left on the bookshelf;)

    Seriously, I consider myself to be a hybrid – practical enough yet educated enough to span both sides without the extremes. Yet, being a ‘new wave’ online teacher gives me another lens to look through – and some people think – another extreme.

    Anyway, for anyone reading this – we can view conflicts in terms of ‘the lens’. We may all be looking at exactly the same thing through different types of lens, so the same thing looks different to all of us.

    The map is not the territory is another way to describe it maybe, or communication is the response you get. And that’s if we’re looking at the same map.

    The neck problem is when we’re looking at different maps and think we’re looking at the same one. This one means that we are basically self-centred and can’t see what the other person or side sees or walk in their shoes. We also over-estimate our own impact on the world.

    Now, I have to consider the best way to discuss opposing mindsets without using ‘us versus them’ distancing..!!

  3. Hi Torn,

    It all depends on how we view management in this case. The story I shared exemplifies the fact that workers were given the power to control, organise and make decisions – which sounds to me like collective management.

    I saw this through the eyes of a teacher. – how students should be able to self-organise and make decisions – and , certainly learn how to use challenge to grow and debate other viewpoints.

    Can you clarify further your view of intellectual development and what form this resistance and opposition would take from your perspective or according to whatever theory you have in mind?

    Empowerment is certainly an issue, though not the only one.

    In fact, the real issue concerns ‘the neck and lens’ problem;)

    I’ll be writing about the neck and lens soon – as I have answered few of my own questions with this article – in fact I’m trying to figure out where my own perspectives fit between the neck and lens 😉

  4. Just a few thoughts re your text about ‘Teachers’ Day’:
    – You are right of course that very often ‘disgruntled academics’ are negative towards the new reality of free sharing online, in large part because they lose their privileged status as ‘gate-keepers’ of what is good and what is not.
    – Another reason why these people are so negative is that in the past distinction used to necessitate hard work and a long apprenticeship (as well as connections and sucking up to those gate-keepers we mentioned earlier); the speed of the new social media means that today someone can become an instant celebrity.
    – Quality may be the reason why someone attains popularity in this Brave New World. Another reason as you mention may be that these people are ‘in tune’ with others – perhaps they discover what makes people tick. But there are other explanations as well – not least, sheer luck! (There is research on this). Popularity does not automatically mean lack of substance, but it does not necessarily imply quality either.
    – Personally I’m all in favour of this new situation – by all means, let us have more volunteer work, lots of stuff online so that people can find what they want without paying an arm and a leg as you say. But there is also a problem here – is there a watchdog body to regulate the quality of info circulated? As it is, it is a free-for-all. In some senses it doesn’t matter so much because we are not talking about medicine here, but there is simply no quality control. (E.g.: a site may offer texts + M/C Qs for ss to practice with and it may become hugely popular because M/C Qs have face validity; yet we know that you don’t learn much through M/C Qs…)
    – The reason behind the labour-intensive paper + citation process is that it enables a peer-review process, so people cannot just say anything they want without any supporting evidence. Despite the ungainliness of the process, there is a sound rationale behind it.
    – You are right of course about the ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality; it is true that established academics or the ‘gatekeepers’ that we mentioned earlier do view this new wave with suspicion. Could it also be that it is the same the other way round? Is there something that makes this new wave of educators a different human species? 🙂 The ‘us’ and ‘them’ mechanism is built into all of us – it may not be a good thing, but it is there…
    – I particularly like the General Motors case study and I would like to see some suggestions about how we can implement this new, progressive management attitude in our field…
    So – just a few comments here… Hope you find them interesting… 🙂

  5. “Then a change in management…” And is this too not rather disempowering for “the masses”? So, in education, if empowerment is the issue, do we not need to embrace conflict, developing, perhaps, an agonistic concept of education and of how things should pan out in the places where education happens?

    There is a lovely moment in “Deschooling Society” where Illich emphasises how lucky children are if they have an elder on hand who cares enough about what they are learning to challenge the ideas that they are developing. Intellectual development (like other things) requires resistance and opposition.

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