The Power Issu Essay, Research Paper
The Power Issue
“But Miss Star, I really have to go. If you don’t let me go now, I am just gonna go in my pants.”
“Okay Joseph. You can go in a few minutes.”
“It’s been a few minutes. Can I go now?”
“Wait one more minute Joseph! Someone is already in the bathroom.” I stood there and looked at my watch for a few minutes. “Okay. It’s been a minute. You can go now.”
“I don’t have to go anymore.”
After our bathroom break I took my third graders, including Joseph, outside to play kickball. Not five minutes had passed before he was at my side again.
“Miss Star. I just went in my pants.”
I looked down at Joseph to see a wet spot slowly forming on the front of his pants. As he began to cry, from embarrassment and the fact that he had wet pants at nine years old, I realized that maybe this was not the time to exercise my power.
As a camp counselor, I had to find a happy medium between friendship and authority. On the first day of camp I decided that I was going to be the coolest counselor. I didn’t give any of my third graders rules or consequences. I let them do whatever they wanted and they didn’t get in trouble (by me at least). BAD IDEA!!!
When the time came to put my foot down about issues, such as Joseph, it didn’t work too well.
“Miss Star, I really have to go again.”
“No Joseph. You just went.”
We stood in the hallway and argued back and forth with fifteen other kids staring at us. They were amazed to see me, Star, actually angry at someone.
“Joseph, just shut up and get out of my face! I don’t want to hear another word from you today and you can never go to the bathroom again!”
Not the best way to handle the situation, right? If I had only set down ground rules in the beginning and let the kids know they couldn’t walk all over me this probably wouldn’t have happened.
The situation I just described can be closely related to the situation in Christian Zawodniak’s essay, “I’ll Have To Help Some of You More Than I Want To”. The English professor, Jeff, had problems with the power issue, as well. He came into class wearing sneakers and jeans and acting as if he were on the same level as the students. In the beginning of the class this made the students feel like they could really relate to him. While reading the essay, I was thinking “Hey, I would like to have this guy for a teacher.” But not for long.
His attitude turned into one of not caring, instead of being laid back. He didn’t give the students enough guidance, yet he wanted them to make good decisions. He helped the students out every once in awhile, but once they were started he would just stare off into space. He didn’t seem to have any desire to help them.
When Jeff told the students “I’ll have to help some of you more than I want to”, he was trying to give the impression that he could not do everything, but would try. As time went on, it became apparent to the students that he was simply being lazy. “. . . Jeff’s statement reflected both dispassion and fatigue” (128).
I had a teacher similar to this for two years in high school. Her name was Mrs. Distler, and she has been my least favorite teacher up to this point. (We used to call her Mrs. Bitchler). She would give us ridiculous assignments, that we had no idea how to do, and leave us to figure it out. For example, the AP English exam. We did, maybe, two weeks of preparation for it. The rest of the year was spent watching movies and making posters. She wanted to give us the impression that she was an easy, but effective teacher. This was not the case.
I think she taught only to make herself look good. She didn’t care whether we learned or not. We were prepared well enough to get by in her class, but when the time came to “go out into the real world,” we all fell flat on our faces. There are not many people who passed the AP exam that were in her class.
I plan to become a teacher, and I feel that my experience in this class has shown me the way not to do things. Because of this, I look at teachers in a different way than some people might. I think that teaching is not an issue of who is in charge. It is something that we have to work together on. A teacher can have a mile long list of credentials, but if they have no desire to share their knowledge, it is useless.
The problem with Jeff was that he showed the students “. . . good writing, but the passion and concern for [their] writing seemed lacking” (130). A teacher can tell a student what they need to write and how to do it, but if they are not shown how, they will be unsuccessful. “. . . students and teachers have to get personal: students have to get into the personal to write about it, and teachers have to talk about the personal to help us talk about it” (131). If a teacher does not open up to us and tell us their personal experiences, how are we supposed to feel comfortable expressing ourselves?
The problem with a lot of classes is that the teacher makes their plan, set in stone, without even meeting the students. They should not use the same lesson plan for every class. It is impossible to know what method to use if you don’t even know what kind of people you are dealing with. “When we recognize the necessity of mutual involvement, students and teachers can work together to achieve a pedagogy that is truly student-centered” (131).
Zawodniak’s opinion on his class is basically the same as mine. We agree on the fact that teacher involvement is highly necessary. “. . . teachers should from the start help students find their own voices” (131). Without their power, in moderation of course, we are completely lost.
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