“… education is the silver bullet. Education is everything. We don’t need little changes. We need gigantic monumental changes. Schools should be palaces. The competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be making six-figure salaries. School should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge to its citizens, just like national defense. That’s my position. I just haven’t figured out how to do it yet.”
Sam in “The West Wing”
I am currently doing some courses in teaching. When I thought about teaching and what I want to achieve, I came up with a short, one-sentence definition of how I see myself as a teacher:
With my teaching, I aim to:
punish the cheaters,
expose the dazzlers,
support the strugglers, and
reward the performers.
This assessment is a modification of a quote from
a politician (Guido Westerwelle) of a German political party (“liberals”, no endorsement here, but the quote is good):
“Meine Politik fördert die Fleißigen, schützt die Schwachen und bestraft die Faulen. Es gibt kein Recht auf staatlich bezahlte Faulheit.”
which roughly translates to:
“My politics supports the diligent, protects the weak, and punishes the lazy. There is no right to state-financed laziness.”
Sure, teaching (and education!) should open minds (but not so much that the brain falls out!) and give tools for thinking, and education should be more than certificates and grades, but I also think this adaptation of that quotation has its point.
We need to make sure that students who cheat are punished — plagiarism, or — even worse — data manipulation and falsification is no way to get good grades. These people should fail and spend an additional semester or year contemplating their actions and gaining the necessary skills (not better cheating abilities!). After all, they are sacrificing the future for their short-term personal gains. (I am indebted to the university library here — you get an interesting impression of today’s students when you sit in the group work room and look and listen to them. Some waste their time by trying to impress others, without learning anything.
Likewise dazzlers who do not really understand what they are talking about, or — even worse — try to manipulate their supervisors in doing their work for them should be exposed for the fake they are (business studies students — I am talking to you). After all, they could do real damage later in life — science, being able to collect real data and analyze it correctly matters!
But on the other hand, anyone who wants to succeed and works for it should be supported, and once they succeed they should be rewarded. These are the people who strive for excellence, not just for show, and you should open the doors for them.
After all, the least we can do when we are in (relatively) advanced positions in life is to make sure the best people end up in positions of power.
And this way, teaching actually has a meaning — and is fun.
Enjoy making a difference. 🙂