We’ve just asserted that the notions of “teacher” and “teaching” are hotly contested.

Despite the great range of beliefs on these matters, however, some perspectives are encountered much more frequently than others. One in particular seems to prevail in the popular mindset, and it’s easily illustrated through an image search of the word teacher. We’ve just done exactly that, and the images below are reflective of the first five pictures that came up today:

Of course, image searches aren’t exactly scientifically rigorous research exercises, but we believe this sort of result gives a few clues into popular assumptions on what teaching is all about – that is, in this case, that teaching typically involves standing in front of people with a view toward demonstrating, highlighting, telling, or otherwise disseminating knowledge. (Many other issues are presented in these images, but we’ll leave those for later chapters.)

As it turns out, that meaning has been particularly stable in English for many centuries. Indeed, it traces back at least to the origins of the word teach, which is derived from the Proto-Indo-European word deik-,“to show, point out.” It is also related to the Old English tacn, meaning “sign” or “mark,” and the root of the modern word token. The notion of teaching, that is, originally had to do with gesturing toward relevant

signs, of orienting attentions toward significant features, of pointing.