After a long and infuriating day of grading final papers, here’s a random quote from my favourite writer that makes me feel oddly, ambivalently better.
‘You act,’ said one of her Senior Seminar students at a scheduled conference, ‘like your opinion is worth more than everybody else’s in the class.’
Zoe’s eyes widened. ‘I AM the teacher,’ she said. ‘I DO get paid to act like that.’ She narrowed her gaze at the student, who was wearing a big leather bow in her hair, like a cowgirl in a TV ranch show. ‘I mean, otherwise EVERYBODY in the class would have little offices and office hours.’ … She stared at the student some more, then added, ‘I bet you’d like that.’
‘Maybe I sound whiny to you,’ said the girl, ‘but I simply want my history major to mean something.’
‘Well, there’s your problem,’ said Zoe, and with a smile, she showed the student to the door. ‘I like your bow,’ she added.
Lorrie Moore, from “You’re Ugly, Too”
7 thoughts on ““I AM the Teacher””
I’m learning that as a physician, a teacher, and a therapist, one of the most profound things I can do is to step away from the role of being an expert in what other people should do next. I am an expert in certain facts, yes. And here’s a quote I find interesting by Ludwig Wittgenstein (shared by Peter Szabo of SolutionSurfers.com at a wonderful Solution Focused Training workshop at U of Toronto):
“Facts are part of the task and not part of the solution.”
I think it’s easy to get confused about this, and mistake tasks for solutions. When I do that is when I start to think my opinion is worth more than other peoples’.
WUD: A psychologist friend once said to me, “A true scientist doesn’t refer to FACTS but to EVIDENCE.” I have no idea whether this is true, but I like it and sometimes quote him to my students.
P.S. Nice to have you back!
I think it’s fine for a student to carry an opinion that differs from the teacher. You can’t argue an opinion. Now when it comes to thoughts and arguments, well the student needs to make a convincing case, just as the teacher does, and the teacher has rather more experience with the topic! I do think the teacher needs to be held to the same – if not higher – standard of proof as a student when it comes to explaining, supporting, and interpreting texts.
Michelle: distinguishing between opinion and argument is one of the main tasks we tackle in the English classroom. When it comes to writing papers, I tell them over and over, “Your opinion has no place in your paper. Your paper is about an argument you are making about the text. If your argument happens to correspond with your personal opinion, that is fine but not relevant.” That said, they often sometimes write reports that express their opinion about whether they would like to read a particular book, but these opinions also need to be supported with evidence – what precisely have you learned about the book that makes you feel that way?
Only good teachers are able to have students with their own opinions, as well. There’s nothing wrong for a teacher to listen to their students and after that explain why and what is or isn’t fine. I suppose, a teacher who does not pay attention to other opinions whether right or wrong, is limiting the opportunity of a student to ever have their own opinion.
I totally get this quote. The number of times I have students attempting to start a discussion on “why is this important?” continues to blow me away. I mean, I don’t object to looking for a deeper meaning in one’s learning, but the twin assumptions that, A) everything has to be subordinated to a utilitarian outlook of “how does this benefit practicality?”, and B) if you can’t see a reason at first blush there’s no point in looking further; really bothers me. I value learning for its own sake, and I do share that author’s frustration with constant questioning of the underlying reason for the program, not the goals/material of the program itself.