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Teachers and students, medieval representation from the Codex Manesse (approx. 1305–1340)
Teacher Lämpel in the story Max and Moritz by Wilhelm Busch , 1865

A teacher or a teacher is further forms a person who other people on a field in which they themselves a head start on skills , knowledge or experience is. Since it is not a protected designation, any person who is in a phase of imparting knowledge, ability, wisdom, training or education can basically be called this. “Teacher” can have very different meanings in colloquial language as a job title or as an honorary title and is a collective term for all types of teachers ; these can be identified in more detail with a corresponding combination of words, for example school teachers , private tutors , dance teachers or sailing instructors .


The origin of the word lies in the Old High German lêrâri (from which Middle High German lêrære or lêrer ) and in the Gothic laisareis with the meaning: One who makes knowing through tracing . The term has been used since the 8th century. The noun agentis teacher is a so-called loan transfer from the Latin doctor to docere "to teach, teach". Although doctor's meaning expanded in the high Middle Ages through the founding of the first universities in Europe, from now on also designating the academic title of a scholar, school teachers were, regardless of their specific level of training, e.g. Sometimes called "doctors" until the late 19th century. Since the 20th century, however, one can speak of a change in meaning, since the classical meaning has completely disappeared. In addition, the teacher used to be occasionally called praeceptor , magister or professor , the latter has still been used in some Romance languages ​​to this day for the designation of a school teacher, such as the French professeur and the Spanish profesor .


Teacher in the broader and narrower sense

In Germany , the job title of teacher is not protected by law , in contrast to the official title of "teacher". The official title is subject to the protection of § 132a StGB . The function of a teacher is also not linked to a specific training, but primarily to an activity of teaching and teaching. There are therefore teachers in pre-professional and professional areas: Anyone who is in a temporary systematic mediation process exercises the function of a teacher and can generally call themselves a teacher.

As a teacher in a broader sense , all people can apply, taking over a certain time the role of a "teacher", including parents, older siblings, advanced students, mentors the younger in certain life skills instruct how the move in the transport sector , sporting techniques doing homework or dealing with other people. Self- taught " private tutors " or "private tutors" can also be classified here.

A teacher in the narrower sense is a person who teaches and teaches professionally after completing professional training and corresponding exams. You then either work independently (e.g. as a driving instructor ), in private schools (e.g. as a Waldorf teacher ) or in the public service (e.g. as a high school teacher ). A distinction is made between a freelancer working and as employees or officials in an employment relationship stationary teachers.

The professionally practicing teachers can be differentiated and assigned using certain word combinations, for example:

  • according to school type: elementary school teacher, secondary school teacher, vocational school teacher, etc.
  • According to the type of school: Waldorf teachers, Montessori teachers, private school teachers, etc.
  • by subject: math teacher, German teacher, sports teacher, etc.
  • by type of sport: ski instructor, tennis instructor, dance instructor, etc.
  • according to musical instruments: piano teacher, violin teacher, harp teacher etc.
  • according to area of ​​responsibility: subject teacher, class teacher, substitute teacher etc.
  • according to subject areas: yoga teachers, meditation teachers, driving instructors, flight instructors, etc.
  • Depending on the level of training: new teachers, old teachers, training teachers, etc.

Areas of application

School teacher

School teachers are also referred to as " educators ", which makes it clear that their field of responsibility includes not only imparting knowledge, skills and insights, but also imparting behavior and value structures. That goes beyond the subject-related material mediation educational mission includes the responsibility for acquisition and commitment to a holistic human development, which means that life support in the form of substantial contributions to be provided to elementary interdisciplinary task areas such as personality education , the ethics , the traffic education , the sex education , the Risk education or health education . This is especially true for general education schools .

Depending on the type of school and country, the designations, training courses and assignments of teachers are regulated differently. In Switzerland , teachers are sometimes called "professors". In Austria there is the term “elementary school teacher”. In Germany, the teachers in the higher education service are called Studienräte , in promotion levels are Oberstudienräte , study directors and senior study directors . In other countries (e.g. USA , Finland ), pedagogical employees in pre-school education are also called teachers, provided they have completed a degree. In Germany this is not the practice because of the structure of the educational system .

Teachers at different types of schools

Teachers at vocational schools in Germany

Two groups of teachers are employed at vocational schools (if civil servants are mentioned below, this also applies, with legal restrictions, to employees with comparable activities):

  • The subject teachers are civil servants of the middle and upper service. Your official titles are very diverse (e.g. teacher, specialist teacher, trade school councilor). You are primarily responsible for conveying practical subject matter. For employment, a corresponding master craftsman's certificate or a qualification as a technician (middle class teacher) or a suitable technical college degree (higher class teacher), personal suitability and, as a rule, the 2nd state examination after the preparatory service is required.
  • The science teachers are officials of the higher service. They have the official titles of Studienrat , Oberstudienrat , Study Director and Senior Study Director . You are responsible for conveying theoretical and practical learning content. A relevant university degree and the above-mentioned additional requirements are required for employment.

Ultimately, it is difficult to grasp the diversity of requirements for the teaching profession at vocational schools if one wants to do justice to all countries. In higher service there are no teacher training courses for vocational schools at technical colleges; the degree in a suitable subject area, e.g. B. mechanical engineering or electrical engineering required. On the other hand, there are courses of study at universities or, in Baden-Württemberg, at universities of teacher education for the higher-level service at general schools, each of which ends with a 1st state examination. As an entry requirement in the higher service for the vocational schools there is partly the course of the diploma trade teacher or the diploma trade teacher with corresponding specializations. Due to the great variety of apprenticeships, however, applicants with a corresponding university degree are also employed here (e.g. pharmacists or qualified engineers). In addition, there is the opportunity for vocational (general education subjects) and general education schools to complete a corresponding teaching degree at a university. At least two subjects are studied and the course is completed with a 1st state examination. In addition, there is usually the possibility of a temporary employment in many countries without a traineeship or a teaching degree, provided that no other applicants are available. Only a university degree in a relevant subject is required. At the moment, this is mainly possible in the natural sciences. Experienced university graduates from business or administration are also hired for new subjects, especially in the professional area, if no corresponding teachers have yet been trained. In some cases, needs are also met by trained teachers.

In the last few decades it has become more and more common that promotions, e.g. B. to the senior student council, with additional tasks in addition to the lessons. Study directors then manage the departments within the school or coordinate overarching issues: matters relating to the general university entrance qualification or technical college entrance qualification, coordination of internships or practical requirements, etc.

Vocational schools

The teaching assignment of the teaching staff at vocational schools takes place (school types differ depending on state law):

in the training courses or training areas:

Teachers at vocational schools are usually assigned to departments, focal points or areas that are oriented towards specialist complexes or branches of industry (economy, media, social education, natural sciences, also school career advice, etc.). This structure is not common in general schools. Your teaching or advisory activities are coordinated within these departments. Depending on the combination of subjects, a teacher can teach in different departments.

University professor

According to Section 42 of the Higher Education Framework Act (HRG), professors and junior professors are referred to as university teachers in Germany . They carry out their service obligations in research and teaching at universities and the educational colleges of equal rank and, with modified tasks and deputies, also at other universities such as universities of applied sciences , music academies and art academies . Private lecturers , visiting professors and honorary professors are counted as “other academic staff” or “teaching staff for special tasks”. There are national legal differences. After retirement, the professors retain their rights to hold lectures and take part in examinations in accordance with Section 36 (2) HRG, which is associated with the teaching authorization (Venia Legendi) . They can also continue their research.

According to the version of the law, civil servants and employees of the academic mid-level staff entrusted with teaching tasks and the lecturers do not belong to the university professors. The members of the mid-level staff hold their courses in consultation with the subject, institute or chair holder . They are only responsible and bound by instructions for a narrowly defined area, usually from their professional practice. Their use is usually redefined from semester to semester according to the teaching needs. There are also teachers in the university service who perform special tasks in connection with the schools.

Teachers outside of school and college

In common parlance, the term teacher is mostly applied to people who teach children and students. But it can also be found in adult education. In the latter area, however, appropriate teachers are usually named with the specific job title of their work, e.g. B. as a lecturer for a teaching activity in the tertiary or quaternary education sector , as a trainer for a teacher in the sports sector and as a coach or supervisor for a socially oriented activity with a high level of self-awareness. Further terms for the supportive teacher are mentor and tutor ; The in-house teacher in the craft with the corresponding proof of qualification is referred to as a master .

Since the term is not protected as a job title (such as engineer), it is often used when describing the organized transfer of knowledge and skills, e.g. B. as a dance or meditation teacher .

Driving instructors, on the other hand, obtain a teaching license in accordance with a federal law (FahrLG). Driving instructors are state-approved teachers and are subject to official supervision by the Road Traffic Office. A driving school is a private or government school, the physical "body", in whose rooms the theoretical content is conveyed according to the driving learner training regulations.

Active participation in road traffic as a vehicle or motor vehicle driver is regulated by law. As a motor vehicle driver, the suitability must be proven in an examination after training in a driving school by a state-recognized driving instructor. The school-based development of knowledge and skills in handling and driving a vehicle in a manner appropriate to traffic is the basis of behavior that can be influenced by humans in relation to road safety .

In sport and in company personnel development , the terms teacher and trainer are not always clearly delimited. Teachers find a wide range of activities outside of school and university in the field of tutoring .

Titular teacher

In addition to the colloquial general use of the term teacher and the special job title, a third meaning has established itself, the use of the term as a tribute to particularly deserving “teachers of humanity”. This assignment of meaning occurs primarily as a high distinction on the moral and religious level. If the term "university teacher" already has a certain double meaning as a job title and as a titular title (award of the Venia Legendi and appointment in research and teaching of a scientific university ), this applies in particular to two types of teachers, which due to their lifestyle and Life achievement as " wisdom teachers " (also " philosophers ") and as " church teachers " (also " church fathers ") are called.

Wisdom teacher

Wisdom teacher with pupil Source: Illustration from the 17th century for Comenius: Orbis sensualium pictus

The biblical King Solomon (10th century BC) or the Egyptian sage Imhotep (approx. 2600 BC) are historically documented as the earliest disseminators of wisdom . Above all, they have impressed themselves on human memory through their ethically demanding demands and rules of life.

Since the fourth century BC, the human educator Socrates and his students like Plato emerged as " philosophers " (= friends of wisdom and wisdom teachers) and uncompromising representatives of a high-ranking ethic in ancient Greece . Even Zarathustra , Confucius or Lao Tse are among the historically most outstanding creators and widening important morals and be counted according to the "teachers of humanity."

Doctors of the Church

The term " Doctor of the Church " (doctor ecclesiae) developed in the 5th century for a number of outstanding Christian personalities whose life's work considered because of the religious depth of their religious doctrines of the Church as particularly exemplary and therefore explicitly as so-called "church fathers" canonized were. As far as they worked in early Christianity , they are also referred to as " Church Fathers ". To this day they have a high authority in the doctrine of the faith of the various Christian churches. The most important teachers of the church include Thomas Aquinas , Augustine of Hippo , Ambrosius of Milan , Basil of Caesarea , Athanasius the Great and Albertus Magnus . With the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) the limitation of the assignment to clerics was lifted and laypeople and women (such as Catherine of Siena or Therese of Lisieux ) were given the honor of this designation. On October 7, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI. Hildegard von Bingen as another woman in the circle of church teachers. When Pope Francis raised Gregor von Narek as a Doctor of the Church in 2015, on the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Armenian genocide , the number of doctors officially recognized by the Catholic Church rose to 36.


In some types of school or in some countries, a school uniform is required for teachers . In monastery schools religious clothing is customary for the teacher, provided that he belongs to a certain religious community.

In the Catholic Church, Johannes Baptist de La Salle is the patron saint of teachers.


  • Ferdinand Holböck: The 33 Church Doctors. Doctorate to Doctor Ecclesiae . Christiana Verlag, Stein am Rhein 2003, ISBN 3-7171-1107-8 .
  • Joachim Gerich, Sarah Sebinger: Effects of stress and resources on the health of teachers. Aspects of workplace health promotion in Upper Austrian general education colleges. Upper Austrian Regional Health Insurance Fund, Linz, 2006, ISBN 978-3-900581-48-0

Broadcast reports

See also

Web links

Commons : Teachers (educators)  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Teachers  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Duden, The large dictionary of the German language, Volume 4, 1978, page 1655, ISBN 3-411-01358-3
  2. Wolfgang Pfeifer: Etymological Dictionary of German . 2nd Edition. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 1993. Keyword: teach. ISBN 3-423-03358-4
  3. http://www.kmk.org/fileadmin/veroeffnahmungen_beschluesse/2000/2000_10_05-Aufgabe-Lehrer.pdf
  4. Horst Dietrich Preuß: Introduction to Old Testament wisdom literature . Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1987
  5. Josef Pieper: Search for wisdom: 4 lectures. With an afterword by TS Eliot. St. Benno Verlag, Leipzig 1987
  6. Brockhaus Enzyklopädie , 17th ed., Vol. 10. Brockhaus, Wiesbaden 1970, p. 188.
  7. ^ Ferdinand Holböck : The 33 church teachers . Christiana-Verlag, Stein am Rhein 2003, ISBN 3-7171-1107-8 , p. 5.
  8. http://kath.net/news/38382