Sometimes bad teaching is the students’ fault. That’s right. I said it. I’m telling you something that teachers everywhere have thought, but few have the courage to come out and say. When things don’t go right in the classroom, it’s easy to blame the teacher. It’s easy for teachers to blame administrators. But, what is the most important component (by far, I might add) of learning? A student’s desire to learn! When that component is absent, everything falls apart.
There is nothing as demoralizing to a teacher as looking out into a room of blank stares. There’s the blank stare of confusion. That one isn’t so bad. That simply means to back up a little, use some examples and talk to your students about what isn’t working or what they don’t understand. The demoralizing blank stare is the one that screams, “It’s all on you to make this class interesting. I really don’t want to be here. And, I just don’t have enough humanity in my soul to try to care.” Now, perhaps when there is a lack of caring from children, I can understand it. You may not know a child’s situation. Maybe they’ve been abuse, abandoned, are hungry or no one seems to care. Children have the right to be needy and as adults we need to meet those needs. But, what about college students? Or, high school juniors or seniors? Sorry, but those people no longer have the right to display a lack of humanity.
I teach college students and I can tell you at times they lack humanity. They treat a teacher as if they have a right to be bored—as if they don’t have to care about the topic, support the person who is trying to teach them or bear a shed of responsibility in their own education. Until a person has dealt with such students—daydreaming, playing on their cell phones or shooting looks (and sometimes words) of contempt at their instructor, one can’t truly appreciate how it drains the soul. Occasionally I’ll come across students that I just want to punch in the mouth, shove their cell phone down their throat or just grab them and throw them out of my classroom. Such students are truly deserving of such treatment, but the system doesn’t allow it. No, a teacher is just supposed to silently bear the indignation. Or, try futile classroom management techniques. Such students suck the life out of the teacher and once that ember has burnt out the class looses its zeal. While a student’s hunger to learn is paramount, teachers are needed to direct that hunger.
Bad students create an environment that leads to bad teaching. Bad students lead to teacher burnout. Bad students create an environment adversarial to learning. While it might not be popular to say, I’m going to say it. Sometimes bad teaching is the students’ fault!