Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Teacher Power

I recently read on article on digg.com about a student correcting a teacher and getting punished for it. It reminded me of a term a few of us coined in elementary school. Teacher Power. It's the power a teacher holds that says he/she is right about everything and there's not much you can do. This comes from a small school setting where there was no principal, superintendent, or council to appeal to. So what the teacher said was final. Any appeals to the teacher's sense of reason and open-mindedness would be taken with the realization that it may adversy effect your grades.

This was evident in grade school and high school for me. College, not so much. That's where i think the problem is. Teachers should welcome and encourage challenges to what they are teaching. Here's an example:

The teacher is talking about science and light. The lesson today is about LASERs. So the teacher writes on the board "LAZER". Little Billy speaks up and says that's incorrect. The correct spelling is "LASER". The teacher tells Billy he's wrong and that the correct spelling is in fact "LAZER" with the Z. Billy insists he's right and is rewarded with a trip to the principal's office for not backing down.

First off, whether the teacher is correct or not, his #1 goal is TO TEACH. TELLING students facts is NOT exactly teaching. When a student pipes up with his/her view and you(the teacher) perceive it to be wrong, your student is not learning a thing by simply telling him/her they're wrong. In this case, looking it up in the text or dictionary to show Billy the correct spelling would be the way to go.

Secondly, Billy speaking up in this way should not be punished. Billy is expressing his honest beliefs in the subject. If these conflict with the teachers beliefs, BOTH Billy and the teacher are under the burden to give proof for their claims. The statement "That's not correct, this is." does not help anything.

Third, if this teacher would have taken the time to look up the word, he would have found out it is spelled "LASER" which stands for Light Accelerated by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.

This is just one example of teacher power. The one i hated most in high school was the notion that the teacher's answer was the ONLY correct answer. So many times i had tests where i had put down an answer that was correct and answered the question given. I was penalized because this wasn't the answer the teacher wanted. I answer test questions by giving a correct answer to the question. If a question does not ask for me to explain my answer, i should not be required to explain my answer to get full credit for that question. If a problem does not specify a method it wants me to use, i should be able to use any method i see fit to find the answer.

I have had teachers that expect you to follow their tests EXACTLY as they specify in the instructions. I've also had teachers assume you to explain your answer etc. I am no mind reader and i refuse to assume what a teacher wants me to do. Yes i can assume, but if i do, i had better not be counted off for assuming something different than the teacher expected me too. If a test question is worded to accept a Yes or No answer, that's all i should have to put.

Truely good teachers are rare.


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