Teaching and discipline

27 Oct

Like Mictlantecuhtli who was told by a colleague to be a good prison guard, most of the advice I’ve received since I started teaching young adults is about discipline and how to affirm one’s authority, usually by being harsh and taking measures against students who fail to comply. I have a big issue with that logic, even though one of my classes is turning out to be difficult to deal with. The problem, as usual, is one of context. What I am made to teach in that school is not a stimulating programme: we follow a textbook which students do not much like and I am asked not to skip any of the exercises. This means that most of our time is devoted to grammatical drills (the textbook’s attempt to make them look like fun falls flat) while very little time is left for what I wish to teach them, which is reading and witing. I want real debates about themes derived from literature, not a discussion on “do you prefer parties with family or with friends?” I cannot blame students for getting bored and discouraged and concluding that English at their school has very little value. In the problematic class, this is clearly made worse by the fact that they perceive my status of substitute teacher as having little credibility. They believe that they can manipulate me, disregard what I tell them, and that their behaviour will be of no consequence. In addition to that, some of the students in that class seem to pose problems with other teachers, which indicates a generally dismissive attitude towards school.

I thus end up teaching material that I think insults both their intelligence and mine and having to discipline students who object to what I am asking them to do when, actually, I believe that it is a healthy reaction to oppose mindless teaching that disregards the humanity of teachers and students alike.

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4 Responses to “Teaching and discipline”

  1. winniebronze October 27, 2012 at 8:02 am #

    Reblogged this on winniebronze.

  2. Z October 28, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

    I want student liberation, but I do not think they do. They have been told that if they get a degree, they will have a well paid job, and that the way to get a degree is to go to school, where since you are paying tuition, you are owed grades. This is why the prison guard attitude may be the most appropriate — in the past one could simply have high standards, but institutions can no longer tolerate this since it is required for purposes of funding that students who begin, be continued.

    • xdanne October 29, 2012 at 6:18 am #

      That is also true. How many times do I propose a different activity only to hear a student ask: “Is it even in the book?” Here tuition is still mostly free, and some of the students may not make it past this academic year.

  3. shanjeniah October 29, 2012 at 6:35 pm #

    This makes me so profoundly grateful to be able to live with my never -schooled children in a way bursting to the seams with relevant, real learning in areas of passion…

    Thank you for writing this, and for having the desire to respect the intelligence of the people in your classes. =D

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