You Can Always Tell A Former (Bad) Teacher

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I visit the local Tim Hortons and know a lot of the employees. They are good and fun people. On one Sunday afternoon, my brother and I were in there doing some work, and as usual we were talking to some of the employees. It was a busy day and the workers were a bit frazzled. As I was chatting with a few of them (probably holding up the line a little) an older woman storms up and holds out two sandwiches. In a dry and stern voice she asked “are these Panini sandwiches?” The employee was nice about it, but I could tell she didn’t like being scolded for what was an honest mistake. I didn’t ask, but I could tell this woman was a former teacher, and probably a pretty bad one at times.

Nobody likes to be scolded. Children included. Had I gotten a breakfast sandwich instead of a Panini, I would have either joked about it or just mentioned I got the wrong sandwich. There is no need to bring guilt or shame into it. Most students (and people in general) already feel bad when they make a mistake. Adding shame to it doesn’t add anything beneficial to the situation, and doesn’t help people learn.

What is funny is that a few hours later my toddler daughter wandered over to this woman and the woman was very nice. This just shows that sometimes we can slip into unhelpful frames, i.e. mental maps, at times. She was normally a nice person, but for some reason whenever anything related to education came up, she returned to her old frames, i.e. “scold mode.”

Our brains work on “automatic” mode a lot, and this is shaped by our brain wiring. I know people that are fun and dynamic at work, but as soon as they walk in their house they become overbearing jerks. I know people that do the opposite. They are cool at home, but at work they become overbearing. This is likely because our brains are wired to react differently in different environments.

Unfortunately, most teachers have been trained to ignore their positive traits at school. Fun and interesting? Not in the classroom. Independent and innovative? You can’t do that at school! Flexible and understanding? That won’t get kids to college! The problem is that this attitude is depriving our students of the very tools that will make us successful teachers, and them, successful students. And, most education colleges won’t touch interpersonal skills, and focus more on the sin of beginning sentences with “And” (and focus on teaching how ironic this sentence is). Fortunately, this website and (forthcoming) book are designed to help you learn the skills that help you reach students, parents, and faculty.

About David Bennett

David Bennett is a teacher, author, and speaker. His articles receive over a million hits per year and have appeared in a variety of publications. He is co-owner of a communication company, and he also writes for The Popular Teen and other sites. Follow him on LinkedIn or Twitter.