Teachers, Instructors, and Coaches — Oh, my!

I posted this in one of Holly’s ‘Q of the Day’ discussions and thought I would capture it here as an Edutainment topic.


There are different English terms for those who transfer knowledge and skills to others: teachers, educators, instructors, professors, facilitators, coaches, guides. These terms have different connotations. The following discussion is my personal subjective view of what these terms mean to me. Others may disagree with me. Your opinions are welcome.

Connotations (according to the personal opinions of Teacher Lee):

  • The term teacher is normally used for those who teach in the public school system (kindergarten, elementary school, middle or junior high school, high school). Since teachers teach young kids and teenagers (not adults), of all these terms I am discussing, the term “teacher” implies the greatest intimacy or closeness between the “teacher” and the student. Teachers are not paid much money.
  • The term educator to me is used to describe the administrators who run the public school system. They probably used to be teachers. We have a saying in America: Those who can, do. Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t teach, administrate. That sums up (summarizes, epitomizes) my opinion of educators.
  • The term instructor is generally used in for those who teach or train adults in private business (privately owned companies). In my nuclear career, I trained professional adults in private business, so I was called an instructor. An instructor is more formal than a teacher since he teaches adults rather than kids.
  • The term professor is used for those who teach in a college or university. Professors have a general reputation for being distant, aloof, and uncaring about their students. College students are generally teenagers or young people, NOT working adults. Perhaps professors don’t consider them “real people” yet. Or maybe the professors are too busy writing books or too full of themselves (too arrogant). I don’t know the reason for this reputation, but my personal experience in college has shown me that they don’t seem to care about the students much.
  • The term facilitator is used for those who facilitate (guide, aid, help, assist) students in teaching themselves by helping each other learn from the group’s combined knowledge and experience. The students in such a class or short course are usually professional working adults. A facilitator may coach students but I would prefer to call him a facilitator rather than a coach. To me, a coach is much different.
  • The term coach is a professional title. A coach teaches a physical sport like football, baseball, or cheer leading. They may teach in a public school, at a college, or for a professional team that appears on TV. Some coaches for professional sports teams are rich and famous. In my personal experience, I tend to think of athletes as overpaid, as all brawn (muscle strength) and no brain (intelligence). A coach teaches this kind of students, so you can imagine what I think about coaches.
  • A guide (usually called a tour guide) is someone who guides (leads) tourists along a physical path as part of a trip or tour, either through a building or museum, on a tour bus, or along a hiking trail. They lead; you follow. Physical movement is involved. You walk or ride on a bus or in a car. A group of tourists often consists of mixed nationalities, so tour guides often know how to speak several languages.

In real life I don’t call myself a teacher; I prefer to refer to myself as a technical instructor. You see, I used to work for a public school district (NOT as a teacher), and in my personal experience, I have found the majority of public school teachers to be, um, how should I say this, technologically challenged, neither smart nor competent in today’s society. In America, my impression (my feeling or understanding) is that public school teachers are generally held in low regard (not respected much).

A student in the back of the class asks a pointed question: “But, er, Teacher Lee, your screen name is, um, Teacher Lee. If you don’t like to be called a teacher, why did you choose that screen name?”

Teacher Lee: “That’s a fair question, my dear acute student. I considered Instructor Lee, Professor Lee, and The Professor (my personal favorite), but for the reasons listed above, I chose teacher because of its connotation of intimacy. I was afraid a more formal title such as Instructor or Professor would put up a wall or barrier (an obstacle) between me and my students. I wanted my students to feel comfortable approaching me with questions, knowing that I care about their learning. Of all the terms above, “teacher” conveys the closest (most intimate) “teacher-student” relationship, so I chose “Teacher Lee” as my screen name. So you may continue calling me Teacher Lee for that reason.

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