Teaching is a unique profession. People remember an inspiring teacher – and a cruel one – throughout their lives.
Both are immortalized in memoirs, à la Mr. Chips and Miss Jean Brodie. The biographies of psychiatrist Anthony Clare and Irishman Peter Sutherland’s “greatest globalist” chronicle how Father Joe Veale shaped and influenced his students at Gonzaga for life.
Inspiring teachers appear in films like Robin Williams Society of Dead Poets and in real life today – the story of how Emmanuel Macron fell in love with his wife Brigitte when she was his English teacher when he was just 17 is a living legend.
The new novel by Julian Barnes Elizabeth Finkis about a man whose schoolteacher remained his lifelong guide and inspiration while John McGahern began teaching because in his mother’s eyes it was a “second priesthood” in the days when the priesthood proper was first.
So it’s not surprising that the question of whether teachers should grade their own students’ work is a sensitive one.
Ever heard of “teacher pet”? (Clark Gable and Doris Day also made a film on the subject.) Understandably, teachers and their unions are skeptical that this is a good idea, fearing it could alter the teacher-student relationship.
There are many popular stereotypes that suggest that pandering to a teacher is not unheard of. With love to sir? An apple for the teacher? All those thank you cards at the end of the school year for a favorite teacher? Conducting personal appraisals – even for 40 percent of the work – can easily put a teacher in a position to be suspected of favoritism. I’ve heard teachers say that there are certain students they just can’t like while others value them as eager and attractive personalities. It’s only human.
Dealing with the boundaries between the personal and the private also becomes more problematic when it comes to individual evaluation.
A necessary professional segregation that protects the rights of all is maintained under the status quo of state exams. Personal assessment has the potential to broaden the spotlight and influence areas that teachers may or may not want to share.
The subject of the LGBT teacher who wants to be open about his or her orientation can be a sensitive one.
At last week’s ASTI conference, science teacher Eamonn Daly described how he was afraid to tell colleagues and others at the school where he taught that he was gay. Poignantly, his partner had died and he didn’t feel like dealing with it openly. It was 2006, and he felt that if he spoke openly about his homosexuality, especially in a Catholic school, it could cost him his job or a promotion.
Despite laws protecting equal opportunities, it is estimated that 18 percent of LGBT teachers in the Republic and 12 percent in the North hide their orientation – they cannot be “who they really were”. Gay teachers should have the right to be open about their sexuality, but it’s also possible that not all gay people — or straight people — want to focus on their personal lives.
When you go into individual assessment, you open up another dimension related to authority. There is also an element of the “performative” in the art of teaching for all. A teacher may need to put on a certain “front” to gain the trust of students—especially clumsy teenagers. They may not always want to reveal their “true self”.
A relative of mine who taught at a strict London school learned to disguise himself as a tough guy, which was not at all his true personality. Teachers can opt for a specific pedagogical personality.
A teacher is in the position of being in loco parentis – literally replacing a parent. Known for rescuing hopeless children by taking on a parenting role – movie star Richard Burton would have worked in the coal mines if a teacher hadn’t taken him under his wing when his mother died. This inspirational teacher was obsessed with Shakespeare and gifted Burton with life.
The teacher also has a pastoral role, so there must be boundaries. Any close relationship with students is fraught with danger.
It may have worked for the Macrons – despite a 24-year age difference, but this is an exception.
There are very good reasons to warn against teacher-student entanglements.
While fictional storylines often feature girls who have crushes on male teachers – Laurence Olivier made such a themed film, trial periodwith Sarah Miles – in Great Britain it seems to have been more about the seduction of teenagers by female teachers in recent years.
Teachers often have considerable psychological power over their students. In Ireland, teachers are held in high esteem and deservedly respected for good reason.
So they may act wisely by denying responsibility for personal evaluation.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/teachers-might-be-wise-to-not-enter-risky-blackboard-jungle-of-grading-their-pupils-41591004.html Teachers might be wise not to venture into the risky chalkboard jungle to grade their students