I’m always hesitant to call myself a teacher… for a lot of reasons, I suppose. One is that I do spend a lot of time at the local elementary school as a volunteer and I do not want any role confusion. (I had a young fellow at school ask me if he could something the other day. I replied that he needed to ask his teacher. His reply secretly made my day. “But you teach me stuff–like how to read!” Okay, but you still need to ask your official teacher.)
I do teach. I guess I can consider myself officially a teacher of adults. And the role of the teacher and student is an interesting one… I’m often surprised–or at least disappointed– that a number of my adult students expect it to be somewhat adversarial. One of my colleagues reported a student announcing that since she was “the customer” and paying for the course she “would do whatever she wanted in class.” Fortunately, my colleague had the presence of mind to reply, “Yes, you are the customer and you can do whatever you like. I am the instructor and can do whatever I like–including giving you a failing grade for the course.”
I’m convinced that we’ve got this wrong in a very fundamental way. I think it stems from a too-often adversarial relationship between parents and teachers. It is not my intent to contribute to the hostility by defending teachers–certainly we are not a perfect profession at any age or grade level. I also do not want to over-simplify the topic.
But I do want to suggest that we get rid of the desk. I don’t want to sit behind it and I don’t want my students or their parents sitting in front of it. (Okay, I’ve never had an adult learner’s parent intercede on the students’ behalf, but I have been contacted by spouses.)
Let’s sit next to each other and talk about what it is that we are trying to achieve. Your homework assignment is to read this article before we meet:
The assignment applies even if you aren’t a parent of school-aged children, because our class discussion will be about how we view education and development… and how easy it is to forget what we’re trying to accomplish with it.