Power Reversal

One reason why I like being a teacher so much is the fact that you can experiment a lot. You are so free in what you do in class and how you do it, that it is very refreshing to change things up and try something new. Actually school gets boring fast if you don’t try something new.

So today I tried something I have tried before, which is letting students give the lesson. What was new about this time was the fact that I did it in 7th grade. I only   ever tried it with older students to mixed results. Often it leads to more chaos as it’s hard for both the ‘teacher’ and the other students to take it seriously. One of my 7th grade German classes is quite loud but also very creative. One student suggested making students who are loud hold lessons as a punishment. And he suggested grading those lessons, so they take it seriously. Today I tried it out, only for 10 minutes, to get a feeling if this is possible.

It was interesting and actually turned out better than I thought. The other students are always fascinated because I put myself in a student’s role, making jokes in the back row and so on. But they also participated and were mostly quiet. The boy who acted as a teacher did as good as he could but was clearly in over his head. At the end, he was somewhat frustrated and explicitly said that it sucked teaching the class, which, to his credit, started throwing paper planes and other stuff at him. But it was still nice for him to see how it is.

What was also interesting, is the way he immediately tried to use his newfound power. You would imagine that students who suffer from teachers being strict would try to do things differently but instead they often can’t wait to shoot back, even at their own! It’s one of the most disturbing lessons of our school system that students always ask me to be more strict and to punish more, to punish themselves effectively. That’s what we teach them, that they can’t control themselves and must be controlled by an authority (while at the same time telling them they have to think for themselves). Hearing someone say “Please punish me!” in another context would quickly lead to a date with a psychologist. In school, it’s a commonplace thing. It’s an interesting lesson about power and easily shows how seducing it is to have it, especially if you have been the victim of someone else’s power before. Getting that power yourself and actually doing something different is not even an option for most people. But I believe it is the only way that will actually change something. I will see if I can get that across to them when we try the experiment again.

Eye for an Eye