Tag Archives: teaching

Teaching and discipline

27 Oct

Like Mictlantecuhtli who was told by a colleague to be a good prison guard, most of the advice I’ve received since I started teaching young adults is about discipline and how to affirm one’s authority, usually by being harsh and taking measures against students who fail to comply. I have a big issue with that logic, even though one of my classes is turning out to be difficult to deal with. The problem, as usual, is one of context. What I am made to teach in that school is not a stimulating programme: we follow a textbook which students do not much like and I am asked not to skip any of the exercises. This means that most of our time is devoted to grammatical drills (the textbook’s attempt to make them look like fun falls flat) while very little time is left for what I wish to teach them, which is reading and witing. I want real debates about themes derived from literature, not a discussion on “do you prefer parties with family or with friends?” I cannot blame students for getting bored and discouraged and concluding that English at their school has very little value. In the problematic class, this is clearly made worse by the fact that they perceive my status of substitute teacher as having little credibility. They believe that they can manipulate me, disregard what I tell them, and that their behaviour will be of no consequence. In addition to that, some of the students in that class seem to pose problems with other teachers, which indicates a generally dismissive attitude towards school.

I thus end up teaching material that I think insults both their intelligence and mine and having to discipline students who object to what I am asking them to do when, actually, I believe that it is a healthy reaction to oppose mindless teaching that disregards the humanity of teachers and students alike.

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Teaching at a private school

18 Aug

According to Jeff Schmidt, work is political because “it affects the distribution of power in society” (video). Of course, as an employee, you have to protect the interests of your employer, and thus reinforce the system of domination that provides our unequal society with “justice and order”, including your own oppression. But who has the most blood on their hands, the working class murderers who end up in jail or the traders and lawyers to whom I gave language classes? Many of the employees I met in large companies were clearly discontented with their job conditions. I find it hard to imagine being led from country to country at your employer’s whim only to realize ten years later that the promotion you were hoping to get was meant, from the start, for the colleague who went to the same prestigious business school as your boss. Good job, doggy, good job! Now go back to work and sacrifice the rest of your life unless you’d rather be fired. The employees I had as students also voiced how mindlessly they entered the vicious circle of needing a job after college in order to make money, then getting an apartment and a car, then getting married and buying a house, and then realising that you need to stay at the mercy of your employer until retirement just to maintain your material privilege and the social status that goes with it. Of course, the system of domination which allows entire populations to be trampled on for the economic interests of large companies operates through the same logic of systemic violence when it disregards employees. How workers manage to deal with their conscience, how they convince themselves to adhere to the company’s ideology, how they put their mind on “business as usual” in the face of so much violence is beyond me. Unless, perhaps, they do it through the very same process that enabled me to work for this private school for over two years?