Strike One, You're Out

As a teacher, you have a certain amount of possibilities how to deal with classes. Or, of course, loud classes. You can be strict, using authority to keep everyone quiet, working with punishment and clear rules. You can also be somewhat indifferent, not really trying much, accepting that no one cares and not caring yourself. Or you can try to listen to your students and involve them in decisions. For each of these teaching methods there are many varieties again, so there are endless possibilities, in theory. Not surprisingly, I prefer the last method.

Now, this usually works this way. First, they are rather in awe because the teacher is so “nice” and “cool”, then it  gets louder than in other lessons (because they can) and eventually, it stabilizes and there is a balance between noise and education. It’s not always easy and it’s hard for the students to realize that being allowed more doesn’t mean there are no real lessons. To me it’s always a testament for how little students are allowed to do in other classes that they burst out so much when they are “let loose” a little. Anyway, in one of my classes I was struggling a little because while I liked them a lot, none of my methods seemed to really work. I tried a lot and after a few especially bad weeks, I tried something drastic and just sat down behind my desk and did nothing. In my mind, they just weren’t ready for anything I wanted to teach and I was annoyed, which happens sometimes because I feel they don’t appreciate the freedom they get from me (for which they have their reasons too but sometimes I just get fed up). So I just thought, if you want something from me, tell me, I’m sitting this one out for a while.

After 35 minutes (!) someone asked what’s going on but by then the lesson was almost over. There were some talks afterwards, with the class teacher and the class, and to me it was settled then. Well, it wasn’t. I don’t want to go into too many details, just in case anyone reads this, so let’s just say, talks were had and opinions were expressed. Not in my favor. I could write more than a thousand words on these talks and what they say about our school system and our culture, but it could become an angry rant and I might incriminate myself even more. Not to forget that I have a past of being a problem teacher already (by writing an anti-school play), so there is always some pre-judgment involved. And believe me, I did question the effectiveness of my method, but the things I had to listen to were simply infuriating.

I just want to focus on one thing. When that student asked me what was going on, I said, half-jokingly, because we had talked about this very recently, that I was “on strike.” Obviously, the word strike is a dangerous word. Actually I’m sure that had I used another term, the waves wouldn’t have gotten as high as they are now. A teacher who is on a strike, who neglects his duty to teach, that is something that becomes the talk of the school (or the town, as I hear). It was made pretty clear to me that I should not have used that word. It really feels like that one word, uttered once, is worse than what I actually did. Here’s where our culture shows its ugly head, its readiness to rely completely on (arbitrary) rules and principles that count more than actual reality. Because a teacher using the word strike has certain implications, I’m in trouble now. There are significantly more people talking about me using that word than there are asking me what actually happened.

We waste time making sure that no one breaks the rules, instead of dealing with the actual problems. And on that course, the truth and arguments are ignored, it is pretended that I clearly made a big mistake and authority is used to make my life more difficult. What they are trying is to bring me back in line, but I’ve never been in that line and I like where I am.