“Tell us about the harshest, most difficult to hear — but accurate — criticism you’ve ever received. Does it still apply?”
1970, and as a second-year teachers’ college student I’m on a week’s ‘section’ (a practical practice trial of teaching for real) at a local school, in a class of eleven-year olds.
I’d had a mildly wild first year – “wild” because as a kid from a small country town, on realizing no-one in the city knew my mum I could do what I liked, and I got high on the freedom to speak my mind; “mildly wild” because I didn’t get into drugs of any kind. In fact I’d rubbish those who did – quite loudly.
Anyway, back to that section. My goal was to plan, prep and teach a science lesson, while class teacher took notes, assessing my abilities (if any). My lesson was Geology – how rocks were formed. The Igneous, Sedimentary and Metamorphic, with a set of samples provided by the school and augmented by a collection of mine of semi-precious gem stones. Chunks of obsidian, scoria and pumice; Crystals – rose quartz, amethyst, peridot and opal. The class were quite a high level of interest, as for a change there were enough samples of every type of rock that every child got to examine and describe more than one.
Unbeknown to me, back at TTC, someone had complained to my lead lecturer about my big mouth insulting idiots in class, and correcting lecturers in mid-lecture when they gave faulty information.
Section over, I had to go see the HOD Science, who apparently was my mentor for the year (though nobody had told me that!), about the success/failure of the science lesson. She commented favourably (IK & NZ English spelling) on the high level of student interest and enjoyment, the high level I’d insisted on in their descriptive writing “as a scientist”, my ability to gain full class participation. Then she told me of my poor planning (gather the samples, and talk to the class. No Goals, Aims or Objectives, or Ratings Scale for assessing individual learning. Tut, tut.
I made some remark (as I was wont) how “a good teacher shouldn’t need to push paper; their job is to interact on an individual basis with each pupil according to their needs”
“But shouldn’t their needs be recorded/” she asked
“A good teacher should be observing every pupil’s behaviour and conversations, social interaction and working ability, and remembering them.”
An agreeable silence, but … a long silence. Then,
“You are readily vocal with your opinions.” A statement of her opinion, and true.
“Yes, i won’t take rubbish from anyone who is supposed to know what they’re talking about.”
“Do you know,” she said (was that a slight smile at the corners of her mouth?). “you’re like me, when I was your age. One day someone said to me something that applies equally to you,”
“Yes?” I asked, “what was that?”
“My professor said of me ‘One thing she does badly is suffer fools gladly’ You need to keep that in mind as you continue through your career. Oh, by the way, your section assignment – I’ve graded it as an A-. Off you go – I’m sure your cronies will be waiting to share a cigarette or two with you.” and I was dismissed.
Her advice, that little jingle which had applied to her and now me, was intended as a criticism.
Such is the arrogance of youth, I took it as a compliment!
Does it still apply? Damn straight! I can be as critical as hell if faced with academics who teach subjects not students, with bureaucrats who make rules but don’t live with them, with young adults who whine “no one told us” or “I didn’t know”, after years of instruction at school re drug & alcohol abuse.
Just one little quote (and there are many just as succinct)…
“Those who will not reason, are bigots; those who cannot, are fools; and those who dare not, are slaves.” – – – Lord Byron