Nurturer vs. Teacher?

A French-speaking Canadian volunteer helps two...
A French-speaking Canadian volunteer helps two Haitian students with their English. The volunteer was in Haiti with the volunteer group EDV to help recovery efforts after the earthquake in early June 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Greg Thompson, the author of the Growing Participator Approach, gives a great explanation of the difference between a nurturer and a teacher. This is a really important distinction by the way! Volunteers at English club often express feelings of inadequacy when helping refugees with English the first time. Hopefully, Greg's words will encourage you!


The difference between a nurturer and a language teacher

I don’t see how I can sidestep this distinction as it is too much of a repeated problem that stymies people’s efforts to be growing participators:

A language teacher's job is to impart knowledge to students and to check to see if they have learned it. She wants the students to work hard and is disappointed when it seems there is a lot that she taught them that they didn’t learn. Working hard means studying on their own in order to learn well before the teacher sees them again. She feels that students who work hard will do well. She is unhappy with students who ask for help with a lot of words that she already taught them.


A nurturer's job is to assist growing participators in their efforts to participate and grow. 1) She talks to them in ways that enable them to understand her speech better. 2) She helps them as they struggle to make themselves understood to her. She doesn’t expect the GPs to be any more capable than they actually are at each point in time, and she meets them in their growth zone day after day, and understands that in doing that she’s helping the GPs to grow, little-by-little, even when she can’t see a lot of change, and she understands that some will grow faster or slower than others. She expects that GPs may encounter a word one day, and still need help with it the next day, and the next, and the next…


We hope that such brief explanations will help host people to be nurturers rather than teachers—not trying to make students learn, but rather assisting them in their efforts to participate so that they grow.

It would be great if every nurturer could take an eighty-hour training course. On the other hand, we often have only a few minutes to try to steer someone away from teaching and more toward nurturing. It is really important. We see efforts of growing participators thwarted and even derailed when the role of nurturer is missed.