Teacher Lust

Teacher Lust

I’m about to make a plea for the laid-back teacher.  We’re damn lucky if we get a job in the first place, risk little chance of promotion, and have a constant battle with learners who think they ought to be ‘taught’.  And yet it is us laid-back pedagogues who put the emphasis on learning and not teaching, the ones who don’t believe we know everything, believe that our way is the only way of doing something, and we are the ones able to refrain from imposing our will and our constructs on the mind and actions of the learners.  It has been nearly twenty years since I came across the construct ‘teacher lust’, and well over a hundred years since it was defined by Mary Boole, and yet still teachers act and behave as though they must be in control, and that enthusiasm equates with dictating everything a learner does. A definition from Tyminski says:
‘Examples of enacted teacher lust can include imposing mathematical knowledge or structure; directing and/or limiting student solution paths and strategies; or telling information in a manner that reduces the level of the task.’
How many of us have not been on the receiving end of this approach, and how many teachers are stuck in this mode? Furthermore the prevailing political will is not at odds with most teachers, who believe that not only should learners have no freedom of experiment and discovery, but that the teaching time allowed is far too precious to admit such concepts.
 
Consider the first job on my search of the TES: ‘We wish to appoint for September 2012 an enthusiastic, well-qualified, motivated and dynamic teacher of Mathematics.’  I can accept the ‘well qualified’ bit, since I’ve worked with more than a few damned ignorant teachers whose understanding of mathematical concepts was so limited they could only deliver learning in a force-fed manner, any deviation from the script by the learners sent them into freefall.  But what about enthusiastic? ‘showing lively interest; extremely keen’ (Chambers).  Why can’t I just show an interest, and be keen, instead of hurrying things along towards some great ‘challenge’ for the bright ones, and a few simple tasks for the slower ones. And remember, there’s sod all wrong with being a bit slow – quite a virtue in many ways. Motivated?  Surely my task is to motivate the learners, not overwhelm them with my own motivation.  And as for dynamic, ‘full of energy, enthusiasm and new ideas.’  Bit of redundancy of words there – yet more enthusiasm.  What about quiet, reflective, and encouraging teachers?

Where does it all lead?  New teachers do what their teachers did, and that is to stand at the front and teach. So many write resources and produce activities that are designed to direct the learning, and then keep the learner happy.  And all this makes more work, for the teacher feels the need to mark everything.  But there is hope – with experience and age comes wisdom.  Like all good 12 step programmes to combat addiction, there are ways to overcome lust.  Tyminski again:

‘As instructors become more conscious of their actions in the classroom and better understand the outcomes, they are more resistant to the influence of teacher lust and have more pedagogical options at their disposal to use to combat its pull.’
And finally, remember the learners, who do appreciate good teachers: @colin28 you are laid back! The very reason we all love you x  (and I love you too, SL!)

References: don’t be silly, use Google and do a bit of research yourself!

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About Colin Billett

Maths teacher, among other things. View all posts by Colin Billett

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