This series is written by a PE teacher and cross and TRX trainer who graduated at the University of Physical Education. Because of his personality and profession, education is part of his daily routine. Throughout the series, he talks about pedagogy – through the eye of the teacher, but not only from pedagogy’s perspective. This is a very complex profession and task, so he aims to familiarize parents, children, everybody with the essence of his work. Written by Sándor Rábel.
Not just for teachers
As the intro also suggests, this article is aimed both at parents and my colleagues new to the profession or struggling with difficulties, since:
-on the one hand, some of the teaching and educating techniques and principles used in school can be adapted and used at home with a high chance of success,
-on the other hand, it is of great importance for the smooth functioning of the CHILD – PARENT – PEDAGOGUE communication triangle, that the PARENT, who is fundamentally out of the school environment, has an OVERVIEW on the reasoning behind certain thing pedagogues do.
How can a PE teacher, mere 35 years old, be absolutely competent in such a serious topic? He can’t! In other words: who am I to proclaim what’s the real deal? I’m nobody! After all, there’s no absolute competence, and the most beautiful things (in my opinion) are either completely measurable and quantifiable, or not at all. The wonderful world of pedagogy belongs to the latter group, so there’s no “real deal”, but passing on the experience is immensely important and useful. So many mistakes have I made and corrected, and so many more am I going to make and correct, so many times have I discussed pedagogy techniques with my excellent colleagues and learned from them proven practices! Therefore, now I only detail things that, according to my experience, definitely work and do no harm in an average 2019 high school.
It might seem cliché and sentimental at first, but the most important thing is love. I’d like to quote from my former high school homeroom teacher, and the current head of the Dózsa György High School and Vocational Dance School, Ági Pappné Lukács, who is one of the best, if not the best pedagogue I know. She used to say: “Every student needs to be loved, some of them are just more difficult to love.” Simple, concise, well-worded sentence. It contains the teacher’s most basic and most effective pursuit, and also the fact that reality is never so simple. “You need to love them” cannot be repeated enough, as there will always be students who, with all their energy, reactions, adolescent phlegm, apathy, grimacing and remarks, will do their best to make you blow a fuse. Surprise them! Try to love them too! Sure, it isn’t easy! But it works!
Of all the effects, the effect of the parents is the greatest on a child’s education and discipline (if all goes well), because it’s purely love-based. There’s no “plan B”, a (good) parent loves their child, no matter what they do! The things a kid learns at home, whatever these may be, are extremely powerful.
A pedagogue can only achieve such a basis of affection in special cases, but the intention must be there constantly. If the child feels that you love or try to love them, you’ll have a proper basis. In fact, it might be the only basis that works!
A pedagogue who cannot or does not dare to express love will never be a good professional.
If the basis is there, it’s time for the elements that are rock-solid, but also have proper flexibility. What else could it be but setting boundaries, consistency, and the lenience that will ultimately prevent a child from feeling oppressed by reasonable boundaries?
Nowadays, we hear more and more about extremely liberal principles of education whereby the child will decide when they want to do what and what’s good for them. “Life will teach them everything anyway,” they say. Sure, but at what price? How much harm will the child and those around them have suffered by the time that happens? Those who seek to establish normal social values and behaviors in the growing generation sticking to such principles are doomed to a total failure!
A child, a student needs boundaries, even if they’d feel more comfortable in certain situations without them. “False teaching seeks to ease the burden of life. It teaches to back out, to quibble.” (Péter Müller – Providence) Properly intelligent and experienced adults must set examples and boundaries that create a normal pace of life and emotional shelter, because a child raised without boundaries DOESN’T FEEL SAFE!
Trying to develop students through restrictive boundaries and infinite adherence to rigid rules is just as much of a pedagogical mistake, as freedom is an age-independent, basic human need, and long-term suppression of freedom can lead to internal tensions which, upon the disappearance of boundaries, can surface with dangerous intensity. But in most cases, problems start even earlier, as a child raised without flexibility is a ticking bomb, their mind becoming twisted and tense, their empathy-based decision intelligence rudimentary.
Finding the right balance between consistency and flexibility depends on so many factors (age, personality, situation, intelligence, momentary condition, etc.) that to tell the absolute ratio is impossible.
In education, freedom and order are most often balanced: if you increase one, the other one will drop.
In a fresh classroom community, setting boundaries and rigidly enforcing rules is much more important than later, as over time, as students’ intelligence and community cohesion increases, the trust between teacher and student grows. Of course, there may be ups and downs. Practicing liberal methods immediately when the community is established is a big mistake, because students have not yet developed a proper sense of duty, and the sense of order required for the basic functioning of education is is only at the level of habit and not of conviction. Habit might never become conviction, but there will be progress towards it, and with progress, you can soften boundaries and increase the degree of flexibility. To cut to the chase: if you do not “take hold of” a community of students (although I strongly suspect that it’s the same for adults), at the beginning, things will irrevocably get out of hand. Reversing this process later is very difficult or even impossible. “Fixing” a “spoiled” community is a damn difficult pedagogical task. Taking over a class from another teacher is already a big deal, since there are no two identical pedagogues, so the student community has to (with some exaggeration,) re-learn everything. Evidently, things are easier if the previous teacher was disliked, and much harder if they were liked.
Adjusting the “length of the leash” at the optimum rate and to the right degree is difficult, but becomes easier after earning respect.
In 2019, no student will respect their teachers just because they are teachers!
There are those of the older generation who are very inclined to criticize today’s youth and adore sentences like this: “Respect used be self-evident for students…” Well, even if it used to be like that, now it’s different, and I have bad news: yes, nowadays, you need to earn respect! It takes effort. If the sentence quoted is true, it’s also true that today’s teachers and parents have it much harder than in the “good old days”.
In his novel Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry writes a brilliant pedagogical sentence: ” I am entitled to command obedience because my orders are reasonable.” (King of Asteroid 325)
I think one of the keys for a teacher to earning respect is this sentence. You must make the students understand what you demand and why you demand it, and when, how and why you decide the way you do. You need to explain to them your position, the cause and possible consequences, and make them understand that what you do is NOT AGAINST, BUT FOR THEM!
We’re not living in a world where a child, over a certain age, especially as a teenager, will just accept the (by the way, extraordinarily weak) reasoning: “Because I said so!” A good teacher can justify all of their demands. They can justify why Ibsen’s The Wild Duck is required reading, why understanding the circumstances of the fall of the Roman Empire is a must, or why we do gymnastics. Students do not necessarily need to identify with your reasoning, but it’s extremely important that they understand it logically! Agreeing and understanding are two different things! Let “adolescent rebellion” follow some of your decisions! If you decide for the sake of students and as a human being, you’ll be successful in the long run!
There is a good chance that we can have a polished relationship with our students by using the above method as soon as we realize that a child has doubts about the usefulness of the task or decision.
Respect will come when the student feels they’re learning something new and useful. This is damn difficult to achieve as we live in a world with a wealth of sources to obtain knowledge, and where teachers’ knowledge is only a small slice of those resources. With technology in their hands, students are able to look up anything in the blink of an eye, so you need to offer something in addition to this technology. Back to the basic idea: in key situations we need to be able to justify why the knowledge we pass on holds something “in addition” for a child.
Of course, you don’t always have to justify everything, because it may seem overwrought.
Respect and love are independent from the pedagogue’s specialization, gender or age, it’s a question of expertise and methodology. It mainly depends on how much effort you’re willing to put into a student’s education. In a school setting, part of the teacher’s mind needs to be constantly tuned in to the student, their problems, their reactions. The teacher must be constantly present, and this presence will be accurately felt by the student. If done well, the student will experience our attention not as frustrating control, but a stable background.
Source of featured image: flickr.com
Translation by Ádám Hittaller