Sunday, June 15, 2008

Don't let teachers interfere with your education...

They usually say "Don't let school interfere with your education..." - but school is only part of the problem.

You grow up being told that School is the ultimate tool to crave our future, and we need to obey School. You need to learn everything they teach in School. You need to get good grades, you can't skip School, and so on...

Our parents tell us that we need to respect the Teachers. You can't be a troublesome kid, "do what the Teacher tells you to" - and that's how the problem develops.

We, as kids, see that Teachers are the authority. If the Teacher says X, you do X.

But worst of all, the Teacher has the right to say "You failed this exam. Yes, the Teacher has the holy right to fail you - and you'll need to take the exam again and again, until he decides you can pass.

(side-note: this is seen much clearer in Universities/Colleges, as opposed to High Schools/Primary or Secondary School)

Teachers know this, and a very lot of them overuse this power. It's going to their head - a lot of Teachers consider themselves as super-beings. Most of them think that the class they teach is a must - you will never succeed in life without their precious advices. And since they have the power to fail you, they can subtly force you do stuff you normally don't need to do. Like, in Romania, it's common use for a University Teacher to force you to buy his book (or, you won't pass the exam) - and most such books, just between you and me, are crap.

In Romania (and it seems quite often abroad as well), attending courses is obligatory. That is plain stupid, to say the least. What if I can learn by myself? What if I have something better to do? Give me a fair exam at the end of the semester, and be objective. How I study your courses - that's my problem. Why do you have to force me attend your courses? Holy Teacher, is this the best you can do?

But the cherry on the top - if you fail an exam, you need to take it again and again until you pass it (and sometimes you need to re-take the courses over and over). To this, I have a simple question: "Why?"

Why do You have to decide for me if a class is important to me? Just to show me that I'm small and you're BIG. So that You'll show me who's the authority... We all know we need to respect authority. We all know we need to respect Teachers.

Well, not me - I don't respect teachers - just because they're teachers. You, as teacher, need to earn my respect - I don't respect you by default.

Getting back to the problem at hand - why can't the school let you graduate with some exams failed? Fine, I failed some exams - I don't care - it's most likely classes I never cared, nor will ever care about. At the end of the school, just give me a diploma, and write my grades on it - if anybody want's to know, they'll check that. It's my interest we're talking about - if I fail an exam I care about, I'll feel ashamed, and take that course again because I want to.

School - as is right now, is obsolete - and I'm not talking about Romania here. Instead of forcing you to obey (which is what schools do now), they should show you free will. It's very hard to have free will if all your life you've been taught to obey.

Just think about it, when for your work, you attend a one-week course, those teachers are really amazing and they do everything in their power to make you understand. And at the end of the course, You give a grade to your teacher. That's how it should be.

Because, if we come to think of school as a business,
  • the teachers are the employees
  • the students are the customers
  • and the customer is always right
So, in the end,

If you're a teacher, remember
  • you're not a super-being, and
  • not all the students care about your class - this is ok, those that really care, will actually learn/be interested about your class
  • failing students will not help them
  • if you truly care about what you teach, make sure your classes are interactive, and that you actually care about what your students have to say
If you're a student, remember:
  • you don't need to respect a teacher just because he's a teacher
  • focus on the classes that you care about
  • you can learn a lot by yourself from books - often better than what teachers teach
  • university (lowercase "u") is not the holy grail - don't let teachers interfere with your education...


Unknown said...

I totally agree with you...Maybe so won't be so many students who can't get their diploma because some "superior being" doesn't pass him at some stupid course...

John Torjo said...

@adrian : He he ;) I know the feeling - met too many such "superior" beings...

Paulius Maruška said...

The situation is pretty much the same in Lithuania and I hate that!

Good article!

Romeo Dumitrescu said...

Let me just say that the post name says it all... I am currently in my third year at college and I can say that the teacher "interference" is getting more pronounced by the day. Imagine the look on the face of a student finding out that, for example, he can't really study the subject "Programming" because the sorry excuse of a teacher doesn't really know the damn subject. I can tell you that it's not a great feeling because I had it on my face very often in my "college adventure". Teachers don't just force you to buy their books (of course this is done very smooth by saying "You can choose not to buy my book.... but don't expect to pass the exam without having it") but I actually had teachers asking for small tokens of appreciation (bottles of different liquids probably used to jump start their engine in the morning :), sorts of gifts, etc) and asking some fellow students what these tokens are for, I just got a short answer like "You need your exam, right?".
John, you are absolutely right! How can I respect a teacher when he doesn't deserve it? I mean, he's called a teacher, right? Why doesn't he just teach the subject and earn my respect by the way in which he miraculously made me understand some difficult concept? Some of the teachers I know would answer "My salary is small and I need your material "respect"." Well, take it up with the establishment not with a young student who's time you will waste.
As for the subjects... OMG! is the exact, not exaggerated expression. I love C#. I want to learn the concepts, language, etc. related to C#. Why do I have to pass the exam at Java (just as an example) if I don't even care about that language? Teachers say: "You might need it in later life!" Well... I might need to fly a space ship in later life but you don't see me joining NASA. What gives them the right to decide these things for me? I know brilliant, absolutely brilliant students in various fields that have failed exams because teachers not only think that you will without any doubt need their class like the first breath of air but they are also convinced that you love their subject.
Another problem is that not many teacher have experience in their field of activity. They teach what they have memorized 10-15 years ago ("If if knew it then, I am sure that I don't need to revise or update") without any worry of being tested. I had teachers that asked for solutions to problems and couldn't correct them because they had absolutely no experience in working in that field. (i.e. my Algorithms teacher couldn't understand any of the algorithms written by the students. She even got annoyed when asking for help or asking her to take a look at your work. The motive for her getting angry: "Sit down and stop showing off!")
They try to intimidate, bully and harass students in thinking " OMG! This teacher is brilliant! Just look at the huge list of books I need to buy to pass this exam!" but after 5-6 minutes "wait a second... why are all of them written by my teacher?! Is he/she that brilliant?!" and after the first course in which the teacher reads fragments of the book considering them to be lessons, you think " I'll never learn this subject as long as I live".

To finish this long comment (hope I didn't bore someone :) ), students give up learning different subjects because of the inapt teachers by making the direct association between them. Statements like: "I hate Java (again, just an example), the teacher's awful!" are not that uncommon. Why do I have to hate Java because of the teacher?! I failed the exam at Java because of that teacher's way of thinking. Ergo: I hate Java.

Sorry if my comment was too long but I am disgusted by the state of things today and I am even more disgusted by the fact that nothing will change in the near future.

Thank you for the inspiring post.

Corina Buzatu said...

@Romeo: you WILL need JAVA, even though you hate it! ;) Don't think like every JAVA programmer about this...

@John: Great post, most of the teachers suck, but I have to say some of my teachers were really teachers and inspired me. All due respect for these ones, screw the others! :D

Romeo Dumitrescu said...

@corina buzatu
Don't understand me wrong, I like Java, really I do, but I was talking from the perspective of a programmer that might not "like" Java. It's really very selfish of a teacher to impose his/her beliefs to students...

Unknown said...

Hello John!

I'm trying to use your wonderful logging library in my project, and I've got some questions... I posted them in boost-users list, but I'm not sure you watch that list.
So, may I ask you about it somewhere in your blog ? :)

The Rob said...

I'm currently attending a local community college. One thing is for sure, teachers really don't know it all. I'm taking a C++ course, and every time I have a question it leads to "I have to get back to you on that." Usually results in most of the class laughing a bit. However, I do enjoy the class, and so far the teacher has done nothing wrong, he always has the solution in the next class.

Furthermore, I have had teachers that feel you should be a progidy just to attain a B. I had an English class, with a teacher who had an odd grading scale. My first paper was a -18 F, and the person sitting next to me was a -19 D+. (Note: the highest grade in the class was a student who spent 4 hours in the writing lab with that teacher working on her paper. and the next highest was a C+.) Well, after a talk with the Dean of my department things cooled down and I sleeked by with a C. Yet, I add my grades up in my required portfolio on percents and put them together with her grading scale and I should have a high B or an A.

So, what's your point? Well, I have to admit even though I did not get a grade in the class, I still spent a lot of time learning to write. My writing skills have increased tremendously (this would be a 1st draft) and I even managed to "figure" out my teacher and land a nice 95% on her final paper.

Final point: Don't hurt yourself just because you didn't get the grade you wanted. Remember the experiance of the class itself good or bad and what you did learn when you were there is more important to the employer.

Enough Ranting, not my blog lol


tunretni (internut spelled backwards) said...

Why shouldn't it be this way?

Kissing ass can be a valuable life skill ...

likewise saying, "kiss my ass".

I've gone back and forth.