In Part 2 of our series Pedagogy 101 (read Part 1 here), PE teacher and trainer Sándor explains why it’s worth being honest as a pedagogue. In addition, he explores, among other things, if a pedagogue should invite students into their private life, the difficulties posed by a biased parent, and why a consistent set of rules is essential for students. Written by Sándor Rábel.
Setting an example and authenticity
One of the most potent genetically inherited ability of a child is to follow patterns. Children copy everything. This is why, in such a troubled world filled with myriads of stimuli, a
pedagogue must be predictable and STABLE in their appearance, communication, and most of all, their actions!
You can be fundamentally liberal, fundamentally conservative, dress in one way or another, you can have different accents, appearances, value systems, but as soon as a child recognizes that you’re out of sync with yourself, you’ve lost. It’s indeed very good to have a diverse faculty, but the importance of security and stability in a teacher-student relationship cannot be understated. We can differ in many things, but not in this one!
Among young children, looking up to adults is much more obvious than in case of adolescents. Children tend to gradually lose this respect as they grow, and the pedagogical significance of authenticity becomes increasingly significant as children become better and better at recognizing the degree of synchronicity between your requirements and your behavior.
Most of your requirements should apply to you too! If, for example, you tend to be late, then your students should be allowed to be a few minutes late as well. But if you demand that they arrive on time, you must do the same!
In the long term, the inauthenticity of a teacher gives rise to disobedience, so it manifests in the hands of adolescents as a weapon, a weapon which ultimately destroys not the teacher’s influence but the possibilities of a child’s own personal development.
Nikolai Vasilyevich Gogol on authenticity and education: „For how can a man educate his children who has never even educated himself? Instruction can be imparted to children only through the medium of example.”
I need to mention something very important related to Gogol’s quote: If a teacher isn’t afraid to behave honestly, they can significantly reduce the time it takes for a student to get close to them. Don’t be afraid to be yourself! At the right time, in the right situation, and in the right amount, you can make jokes, relax, snap at others, cry, tell that you had some beers with your friends on the weekend, or that you went shopping for shoes with your friend. In the eyes of a student, a teacher is some kind of strange animal until the teacher „reveals” themselves. As long as you only convey irregular verbs, logarithms, dates, or poems of eternal truth, for the student you’re only an „anointed” professional, even though everyone is more than that. If the student can see the person, examples become real!
However, you must always keep a certain distance. A child cannot become your buddy, because neither they nor you are able to handle this condition after a while. The goal is always to develop the child’s personality! Unfortunately, this cannot be realized without maintaining the superior-subordinate relationship.
Primary communication and its difficulties
Primary communication is almost never what you say, but how you appear. This determines the effectiveness of all your pedagogical methods and influences in a fundamental way. If you appear weak or uncertain, students will eat you alive.
Teachers are humans too, they can have a bad day, they may suffer trauma, struggle with sleep disorders etc. It would be easy and cliché to say that you must hang in there regardless, that your students mustn’t notice if you have problems, but reality is much more nuanced than that. The kids will certainly notice your actual „weakness”, and respond to it based on group intelligence and the previously developed relationship. They might show empathy, but they also might take advantage of the situation mercilessly. In critical cases, you can tell your students that you’re in a difficult situation, and try to evoke compassion and more patience than usual, but never reveal your full story because
the crises in your life don’t concern your students!
Putting a student into a position where they provide emotional support results in role reversal, something that neither party will be able to handle properly.
Students in school and at home
Conversations with parents often reveal that
a child, in similar moral or educational situations, shows completely different reactions at home than in school.
It’s as if it isn’t the same person, since the child constantly changes the consistency of their decision-making. But of course they do! It’s their job as a teenager! They’re trying to find themselves, they’re learning how to prevail effectively in different environments, they’re trying to follow or bypass the rules at home and in school, they understand what they can and cannot get away with with Mom, Dad, a friend, a lenient teacher, a strict teacher, etc. They’re learning life.
(If you think about it, the adult world also has different environments that require different techniques to prevail. The difference, perhaps, is due to a higher consistency of decision-making and a broader understanding of protocols.)
A child behaves differently in a school community than at home. If this difference in behavior is not accepted by a teacher or a parent, then it’s almost certain that a PARENT-TEACHER conflict will emerge sooner or later, since:
-TEACHERS are prone to pigeonhole if they think that a student’s behavior is the same across all environments and causes the same kind of mischief even at home. „Your child is like that.” No! The child is like that, TOO!
-And PARENTS get too biased if they do not realize that their child’s reactions at home and in school don’t always match. „My child doesn’t behave like that.” But they do! The child can behave like that TOO!
Of course, these differences in behavior are not the same in every student and in every situation, but the phenomenon is always there, and it’s nothing to be afraid of.
Based on my experiences, it’s impossible to achieve professional success as a pedagogue without at least a minimum level of knowledge of a student’s family background and free time activities. This of course takes a lot of effort, conversation, and establishing trust. There are teachers who simply do not feel comfortable in their profession. I’m almost certain that the lack of effort that I’ve just mentioned is what causes most of these problems. You reap what you sow…
Of course, carrying too far when striving to get to know a student is not OK and just as much of a mistake as treating them as a workpiece.
The first step in solving a pedagogical problem with a child is not to push them into the world of immediate consequences, but to have a conversation with them and explore the basics of their background! If we start out like that, the pedagogical problem or conflict often doesn’t arise to begin with.
Dear Parents! Handle any information about confrontation between your child and a teacher with caution! It’s not a question of not fully trusting your child, but of remembering that the child and the teacher experience reality differently. When clarifying a sensitive situation with a teacher, always keep in mind that your child behaves differently in school and at home!
I remonstrate because it’s important: I’m not a parent myself, but as a teacher I know that a biased parent is very hard to deal with, making delicate pedagogical problems more difficult to solve as well.
A parent’s goal and a teacher’s goal
Referring to the title of this article, I’d like to highlight that this section isn’t about teaching subjects or parents judging the quality of education, but about basic pedagogical goals.
For a parent to reach a more complex understanding of teachers’ decisions, it’s worth describing the difference between the two pedagogical scenes.
-For me it seems fundamental that a parent is happy if their child is happy. Everything they do is for the child, everything is subordinated to the child’s interests. If they’re a good parent. A parent’s top pedagogical goal is „MY CHILD should be happy.” This is the main goal of parents and that’s fine.
-What makes a pedagogue happy isn’t as clear, but I think the pedagogical goal can be determined. A pedagogue wants the community they guide to becomes a REAL COMMUNITY, because this is when individual students are most likely to be happy.
Therefore, a parent will FUNDAMENTALLY use methods that let them develop the personality of their OWN child or children, and a pedagogue’s methods are FUNDAMENTALLY aimed to optimize the control of the COMMUNITY, thus providing the foundation of personality development of individual members.
Both as a homeroom teacher and a specialized teacher, a pedagogue encounters a number of situations in which the current interests of individual students conflict with those of community control.
Parents FUNDAMENTALLY think about individuals, pedagogues FUNDAMENTALLY think about communities. Once again, NOT ALWAYS, BUT FUNDAMENTALLY!
Dear Parents! Try not to be overprotective of your children in case of decisions that are primarily beneficial to the community and not your own child, because later on, adult life and work will be full of such situations! Additionally, what’s important to the community is also in the interest of the individual!
The rule set essential to community management must be strictly and consistently enforced, even at the cost of conflict,
BUT there are certain situations in which empathy overrides the rules and we need to make an exception. After all, we’re still human and ultimately responsible for the success and well-being of individual students leaving the community. I can’t give Timmy a tardy for being late because her mother got sick and they had to call and ambulance! In this case, I ask him why he’s in school at all and send him to the hospital to visit his mom! This, of course, is an extreme case. It’s more nuanced situations that will test your decision threshold. When should you let it go? When should you enforce the rules? Is there a formula? There is, but not a measurable one. You need to trust your instincts.
Janne Teller formulates in her novel Nothing: „Anyone with even a smidgen of humanity feels more than they can explain.”
Source of featured image: flickr.com
Translation by Ádám Hittaller