The Student vs. the Teacher

With Commentary

Here is Chapter 1 from my book, The Art of Teaching. It is entitled “The Student vs. the Teacher.” I will display the chapter itself in quotes and regular text. If I have any comments to make throughout, I will provide those in italics and red color.

“There are those who exist with the desire to achieve and succeed, with no knowledge of their own to draw upon to do so.” I view the previous as an underrated point, especially in light of what I’ve seen in myself. I always felt like I had to know something before I did it, or at least understand it to accomplish the goal. This isn’t true. When we go to school or engage in a learning environment as a student, we need to operate on the side of not knowing. If we don’t, then close ourselves off to crucial moments. We have to accept that we don’t know what we’re doing to grow. “They arrive with varying levels of expectation, preparedness, and teachability; ultimately, they set the bar for what they receive.” I find this declaration self-explanatory, but I’ll delve a little deeper. In grade school, most students have parents that will “go to bat” for them against their teachers, the administration, or higher. Accountability has moved in the last decade from the student to the parent in the student’s and their parents’ eyes (COVID 19 helped illustrate this point dramatically when the schools closed down, and the parents now had to act as a teacher), but this is false. If the student doesn’t apply themselves or determine their goals, then the teacher can make no impact. 

“These are called students. The student has the responsibility to learn. They bear the weight of application. It is set forth by life itself that whosoever deems and defines himself or herself as a student must first and foremost seek understanding, and then walk the path set forth by that learning.” I have fallen victim to this idea many times. Principally, that once I have grasped a concept, or think I have, then it’s time for me to move on to the next thing. Every time I do this, I end up quite worse for the wear. We have to take the time to live with something to determine if it’s working or has any worth in our lives. If all we do is listen and discard, we’ve become apathetic and are basically giving up on ourselves. The path set by what we pursue is the whole reason to find and choose the path in the first place. Do not make the mistake of fearing what your learning can/will actively do for you. Commit to something and let it become an experience.

“Failure is required. Faith and acceptance are required. Patience rewards those who possess it. Endurance brings the joy of success.

“Students should respect their teachers, yet challenge the lessons they receive.” A fine line to balance, to be sure. How do we respect an idea, yet test it? Consider for a moment the first part: respect. This is a concept of perception and attitude toward someone and the degree to which you show it determines a lot of your behavior toward them. If you don’t respect a person, you may mock them, ridicule, argue, or work hard to prove them wrong in just about anything. If you respect them, you take an interest in what they have to say, defer judgment, and be eager to be around them. Respect isn’t always evident when you challenge, but that’s an even more slippery slope. Without respect, you’re not challenging. You’re picking a fight. When you contest, you want to gain a further understanding of a subject. Hence, you bend the boundaries that you’re able to recognize. A good teacher acknowledges this and won’t take offense when you do so. Instead, hopefully, they’ll encourage you to keep challenging as everyone grows in such an environment. But, remember that there comes a time when testing needs to stop or take a break and be replaced with gratitude, humility, and appreciation. 

“They should yield their ignorance to experience, but allow knowledge and understanding to be revealed instead of forced. In short, one must know how to give if they are to receive.”This isn’t a modern concept, but I understand it’s not one that everyone agrees with. Take, for instance, the example of being on an airplane and having the air-masks deploy. The correct procedure is to don your own mask before helping others, which I don’t disagree with. In this instance. I would argue that the concept of a classroom is different from the presented example. If you claim to be a student and spend all your time fighting for yourself, you’ll have no room for anything else. Herein lies the principle of Emptying Your Cup. 

“It is not the teacher’s responsibility to see they learn the information, but instead to enable them to pursue the learning themselves.” This is key. The teacher cannot force what they have onto another. A teacher is not responsible for what a student learns, but they can influence the “how.” “The student is the only end-result to their efforts; however, a good teacher can show them the paths available to find their best solutions.

“There are those who exist with the experience to succeed in life.” As life, family, friends, and God continually explain to me, there are so many different versions of success. However, in most every case, I’d argue that experience is an essential key to that success. And experience only happens through active participation, and in-the-moment living. “They exist in various fields, passions, and interests and possess the skill to influence and impact the world. They are faced with a polarizing choice to keep those experiences to themselves or to offer them to others.” I understand if this comes off as “judgy” or “condemning,” but I have not intended for it to be that way. As I see it, this is an objective realization. When someone knows what another doesn’t, there is a clear point of recognition, comprehension, and the eventual decision of what to do with that. Many factors influence whether or not those with experience will interact with those without. I have no quarrel with such a decision. However, I do state that anyone with the ability to teach is given multiple, clear opportunities to do so. 

“Those who choose to share their knowledge with others become facilitators or teachers. They become foster guardians of students. Even as teachers, though, they will forever be students and hopefully retain the value inherent.” This principle is my absolute favorite in my twenty-plus years of teaching in all the various classrooms and avenues. I have learned more about whatever subject I’m teaching because I have the chance to teach it. I went through this with karate, improv, religion, and less formal settings in talking with friends and family about various topics. As a teacher, you’re automatically involved in the content. It becomes apparent quickly if you know it. And the added perspective of now having to present the material in a way that someone besides yourself can comprehend and adopt is a viewpoint beyond my ability to describe. It’s just sensational. I get to see into the nooks and crannies when I stand in the role of teacher. But, it takes a lot to get to those shoes in the first place.

“Patience is required. Faith and acceptance are required. Failure is appreciated. Humility expands their understanding and wisdom.

“Teachers should respect their students, accepting the desires and innocence they bring and should reciprocate with challenges, opportunities, and positive, yet correct, reinforcement.” I see it so often. Teachers who think they’re God’s gift to their students. There’s a future chapter about pride, and I’ll spend more time explaining this idea in there. If a teacher doesn’t understand that the classroom is not theirs, but their students and they’re the caretakers or facilitators of the space, things are going to be rough. 

“It is not their responsibility to ensure their students learn, but rather to encourage them to learn and see they have all the means to do so. The challenge inherent then becomes recognizing the needs of students and delivering on their position as the teacher.” Anyone who has any experience teaching knows this to be true. I didn’t really see how apparent this piece was until I took a part-time teaching job at a high school. I only had two classes, one of which was a brand new class. In total, I had less than twenty students. Still, my goodness, the individual situations, and the needs of these kids are diverse, complex, and essential. While I believe very strongly that students have to learn to adapt to how the teacher directs the classroom, the teacher has to equally empower each student. This is an incredibly difficult task and requires excellent communication, lots of questions, and trial and error. 

“Teachers also provide the accountability. Students are asking for discipline; otherwise, they would not be in the classroom.” Very few students know this. Instead, they think they run the show. But, deep down, on some level, every student can sense that they need to have boundaries and guidelines. “There must be a consequence to every choice and decision. None, including them, are immune.” No one is immune from choice and consequence. Ideally, a great teacher can take rough results and turn them into powerful tools. The cause and effect aren’t lessened in any way, merely used and interacted with differently. Just because a teacher knows something doesn’t mean they’re exempt from it. Ever.

:This is the relationship between teacher and student.”

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