The Garrulous Jay – Bad Teachers

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They say you never forget a good teacher, and I would attest to this. I can certainly remember the ones that enthused me through their own love of their subject. But I learnt some of my most valuable school lessons from bad teachers.

Before going any further I should say that overall I feel I benefited from a very good education (not least because my parents read The Garrulous Jay!). I would also like to think that many of my teachers wouldn’t cut it in today’s education system.

Having said that, I will generalise a few teachers that taught me unintended lessons below…

The Favouritist – Favouritist teachers are anti-meritocrats. They give undue attention to children based on personal preference, or worse, parental connections. Schoolkids spot this and I saw the adverse consequences on the subjects of such favouritism which was often neither sought nor welcomed.
Lesson: meritocracy matters.

The Authoritarian – Authoritarians exercise a reign of terror over their classroom. Pity my poor classmate, Tom, who bravely decided to raise his hand and answer the question we were asked by our Authoritarian Biology teacher in our first class together. Teacher: “What do we call all living things?” Tom: “Orgasms, sir!” Reducing children to tears may get short-term results but do long-term damage.
Lesson: fear fails in the long-term.

The Overfacer – An Overfacer adopts an approach to their subject matter which might best be summarised by the expression, “if you throw an enough stuff at the wall, some of it will stick”. I recall one teacher whose pupils ended up with three exercise books to my one, for their O level course (yes, I’m that old). Their results were on average worse than ours. A classic case of volume over value.
Lesson: sometimes less is more.

The Coaster – Of all the subjects one learns at school, I think Maths may be the one where confidence matters most. So the Coaster teacher whose idea of pedagogy is to enter the class at the start of the lesson and say, “OK, open your textbooks at chapter three and get on with your sums”, probably isn’t delivering the psychological boost that’s likely to yield the best results.
Lesson: motivation matters as much as management.

The Unsuitable – I have some sympathy for Unsuitables. These teachers no doubt enter the profession with high ideals and great ambition, but they are patently unsuited to the role. You don’t need to be an Authoritarian to manage a classroom, but if you are unable to retain some semblance of control all is lost. Kids can smell a ‘weak’ teacher a mile off and they can make life pretty unbearable for them.
Lesson: choose a career where you can play to your strengths.

To conclude, being able to recognise these stereotypes beyond the classroom has been incredibly useful since leaving school. But the most valuable lesson of all was learning what it takes to win and lose respect.