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A thought for teachers in the new year

January 3rd, 2009 · 6 Comments

I’m prepping for classes, as are tens of thousands of people around this province, and found this thought-provoking quote in a book I’m reading as part of that prep:

“Significant learning and critical thinking inevitably induce an ambivalent mix of felings and emotions, in which anger and confusion are as prominent as pleasure and clarity. The most hallowed rule of business — that the customer is always right — is often pedagogically wrong. Equating good teaching with a widespread feeling among students that you have done what they wanted ignores the dynamics of teaching and prevents significant learning.”

That’s from Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher by Stephen Brookfield.

It’s a thought-provoking paragraph, not just for teachers, but for journalists as well, who perform a kind of teaching.

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  • GD

    And that’s why an overemphasis on short-term student evaluations of teaching can create skewed incentives for instructors, ultimately diminishing the actual quality of education…

  • chris

    Great quote! May I pass on that quote to some of my co-workers?
    Chris. Sunshine Coast Alternative School.

  • Wagamuffin

    Feeling like an order taker, Frances?

    Are you noticing that there is a larger sense of ego and entitlement amongst students today?

    I have several friends who are teachers who tell me that it’s pretty damn difficult to engage with students today. Besides feeling that just showing up should entitle them to a high mark, curiosity, motivation and learning just for the joy of it seem to be lacking. My attitude is that every first year college or university student should have at least a year of liberal atrs education to get them thinking.

    Logically, since journalism would seem to attract the seekers and questioners amongst students, do you note those same problems and attitudes in the j-school cohort?

  • fbula

    Dear Wagamuffin,

    Actually, I don’t feel that much like an order-taker. (In teaching, as with journalism, I do tend to see the glass half-full.) I run across the very occasional student who believes that simply showing up for class should entitle him/her to pass, but I am actually delighted with the majority of students I have. Most of them put in enormous efforts in the classes that I teach. There are a few who don’t, but my guess is that it’s because they ended up in the program because they couldn’t think of what else to do so they’re simply not motivated.

    I found the quote an interesting one more as a jolt to my own thinking. I’m susceptible to a tendency to try to make everyone happy (okay, I know none of my critics will believe it) and the quote reminded me of the very useful role to be played by making people uncomfortable.

  • Wagamuffin

    Yes, indeed. Agreed.

    If we were never questioned, able to question or made to feel uncomfortable, we as individuals, and our societies, would not be able to progress.

    It reminds me of that old saw: “The older I get, the more questions and less answers I have”…

  • Dee

    The most interesting students are the ones who ask the questions – we need to encourage that too! Great quote – now if we could get parents to understand….