I’m sure we’ve all had teachers who couldn’t resist antagonizing their students and getting into discussions. It’s an attitude that leaves a lot to be desired, and these teachers often seem to behave like the students they’re supposed to be teaching. On the other hand, you also have teachers who come into the classroom and just read from a book without explaining anything. Others always seem to be in a hurry because they say there won’t be enough time to cover everything.
The dynamics are the same. Some deal with the students better, others are worse at this. Still, we can say that most teachers generally only focus on the syllabus, overemphasize students’ grades (the higher the better), and do their best to give up mountains of homework, hoping that the students learn something from this. But isn’t this approach lacking something?
The syllabus is not the only thing that matters
Some teachers just want to stick to the syllabus. They want to achieve all the goals in it and work through the book as quickly as possible. However, the only thing they achieve with this is that they destroy the creativity of their students. Instead of actually learning things, most students just try to memorize as much as possible to get a good grade. And what usually happens is that by the next month or week, they’ll have forgotten almost everything.
This is something many teachers complain about. But few of them really bother to analyze whether their way of teaching is the right one. They put too much emphasis on grades and show little empathy to the students, especially the teenagers. The importance of the positive influence a teacher should have on his students is hardly considered.
It seems that as soon as they enter the classroom, some teachers forget the most human aspect of their job. This is especially true when dealing with teenagers. Unfortunately, it is all too often that teachers cannot believe complaints of bullying or intimidation because they have not noticed it themselves. This is not surprising at all, given that they are so indifferent to their jobs and their students.
The best teacher ever
While many teachers don’t convey any passion or inspiration to their students, there are of course a few who do. Here’s an excerpt from an article Carlos Arroyo wrote for the Spanish newspaper El País on August 17, 2013 :
Sometimes it even happens that a student initially loves mathematics, and then becomes disliked by the teacher he has for this subject. Another never makes his dream of becoming a writer come true because he had a literature teacher who was very negative about his work. It is clear that teachers can have a huge influence on the self-confidence of their students.
Teachers can change their students
Just as the choice of positive or negative criticism can influence children’s behavior at home, it can also happen in the classroom. If a teacher does not believe in his students, if he is unable to motivate them, then it is clear that the situation will not improve on its own. There’s no point in complaining about it. The teacher either has a power he doesn’t want to use or a power he isn’t aware of.
I can confirm all of this based on my own personal experience. I myself was not only a student (something that many teachers forget), but I also gained work experience as a teacher in secondary education. I’ve seen my own tutor alienate his students with the following words: “There’s no point in doing anything with him, he won’t even open his book.”
My supervisor only saw rebellious teenagers, some better than others, but for the most part they were all “ignorant brats.” That view didn’t match mine at all. Without getting to know them all, I could see that most of them were insecure, unmotivated and lacking in self-confidence. Without even having to ask, you could assume that they were probably dealing with problems in their home environment.
Everything is possible
Interestingly, the boy who never opened his book before did so when I took over that class for two months. I never ignored him, and certainly never spoke badly of him. I never told him to do anything he didn’t want to do. This simply caused a change.
The way I taught and the passion I radiated had their effect. Students even wanted to sit at the front of the class and speak out loud in front of the class. The student in question saw how his classmates became more and more comfortable with their work. And so one day, he chose of his own volition to open his book. He also took out his pen and began to work on the assignment I had given them; writing an essay.
My supervisor was speechless. He said I had achieved the impossible. My only thoughts, however, were with that boy. And his essay showed clearly what I suspected all along: He came from a dysfunctional family. Unfortunately, I could not continue to work at that school. However , through all this I have learned that a teacher has the power to change the attitude of the student.
Why always that syllabus?
My supervisor told me that it was positive to have the students come to the board and do assignments in groups. But he also said that in the long run it took time to complete the syllabus. This made me ask myself the following question: which is more important? That students learn something in a fun way? Or to just finish the syllabus (which they will remember very little of) and stifle their creativity?
There is a need for major changes in our classrooms. There are already some schools that implement the Montessori method. Or schools such as the Sadako School in Barcelona, which do not have individual tables, and are based on collaborative learning and emotional, social and philosophical education… However, most schools are still governed by the traditional model. A model that doesn’t work for everyone. Because while the syllabus is important, it certainly isn’t everything.