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Teaching: The Past & Present

27.11.18 01:35 PM

An Error Teachers Must Avoid to Enjoy their Profession

One big mistake I have seen many teachers make is thinking that their students would behave like the students of yesterday, or like they themselves did in their days. Many teachers expect their students not to criticize whatever they say in their lessons. They should just accept it hook, line and sinker. They expect their students to always stand and greet them when they get to their class. Some even expect their students to bend while greeting them. They expect their students to fear them as they feared their teachers. They see students who politely point out errors in their lessons as being rude and uncouth. Many teachers really want their students to act like they did in their days.

Those of us who went to school in the 80s and early 90s can boldly affirm that we were in our days different from the students of today. There are many things students do today that we would never have thought of doing in our days. I will prove this assertion later in this write-up.

These days, many teachers have difficulty coping with the behavioural patterns and mannerisms that students exhibit in school. As a matter of fact, many teachers have been frustrated out of the teaching profession because they could not cope with the increasing demands of modern teaching and modern students. Before we lose all our brilliant teachers to other professions, serious efforts must be made to educate teachers about the nature of the modern students. This humble article from me is, therefore, an attempt to lend a voice to the discourse on the make-up of the modern students. This effort, I hope, will provide teachers with tips on how to deal with their students, and consequently, begin to derive maximum enjoyment from their seemingly frustrating profession.
Let me begin by highlighting some of the characteristics of the students of yesterday.

1. Their only sources of knowledge and information were their teachers, textbooks, and possibly, their parents.

2. They had no access to the internet or social media. They hardly knew what was happening in other states or climes.

3. They hardly criticized information given to them by their teachers. They literarily treated every piece of information given by their teachers like a verse from the Scriptures or Gospel truth.

4. They dreaded being reported to their teachers by their parents.

5. They respected (sometimes, feared) their teachers.

6. They stood up to greet when their teachers came into their classrooms.

7. They couldn't bear the thought of writing petitions against their errant teachers to the Principal, the Ministry or any government agency. 

8. They were content with their school meals and occasional stipends handed to them as pocket money by their parents. 

9. They accepted half-truths and faulty descriptions of other states or countries as related to them from textbooks by their teachers since they hardly holidayed outside their states or country.

How time flies! A lot of things have changed in our school system. The students of today are not characterised by the attributes mentioned above. I present below some of the attributes of today's students:

1. They have been to the states or countries their teacher wants to talk about. They can easily detect falsehood in their teacher's statement.

2. They have access to the internet and social media. They can read ahead of the class and consequently pose difficult questions to their teacher in class.

3. They only respect their deserving (sometimes, permissive or indulgent) teachers. They do not fear their teachers.

4. They hardly fear being reported to their teachers as most schools have abolished corporal punishment.

5. They are highly inquisitive and critical. They hardly believe whatever that cannot be proved scientifically

6. They want to be treated by their teachers as partners, not as servants or empty slates.

7. They believe that respect is a two-way thing. *If my teacher respects me, I respect him.*

7. They prefer reading fictions, comics and story books to reading their school notes or textbooks.

8. There is hardly any amount of money they cannot bring to or spend in school

To succeed as a modern teacher, you need the following:

1. Read widely in your assigned subject(s). The students know teachers who are good at their subjects. Consult some of the educational sites which your students may also consult.

2. Relate with your students as partners in progress. Your relationship with them should never be a master-slave type.

3. Earn your students' respect through quality teaching and mutual respect. Students seldom respect teachers who do not respect them.

4. Let your students understand that you believe in all of them and have high expectations of each of them.

5. Involve your students in setting rules for your class. Give them a reason to believe that you value their opinions.

6. Be ready to answer their questions and accept their constructive criticisms. 

7. Apologise when you are wrong.

8. Do not assume that you are the only one who is knowledgeable in class. Allow your children to teach some topics, share their experiences and lead discussions in class periodically. In such instances, you will just coordinate and provide additional information.

9. If you have to discipline your students for wrong-doing, let them know why you have to discipline them and let your disciplinary measure be corrective and not destructive.

It is important that teachers understand the make-up of today's students and stop comparing them to themselves when they were in school. A lot of things have changed. If we fail to recognize this truth and continue to expect our students to behave the way we behaved in our days, we may never cease to complain about our profession. We would enjoy our profession maximally if we adopt methods that suit our modern students, and see them as our partners in progress., and not as our apprentices, or tabula rasa.

This article does not in any way attempt to urge teachers to become indulgent or tolerant of improper behaviour from students. Rather, it aims to help teachers understand the nature of their students so that they can adapt their methods to suit their students' needs and make-up.

Adapted from Teachers Advocacy Whatsapp Group

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