The popular teachers. You can fairly easily figure out which ones they are. They are the nuclei around which fawning students revolve, all cajoling for advice, deadline extensions, grading consideration, clarifications, or even personal stories. These teachers rarely show their cranky side and would make an effort to accommodate the students and actually be “friends” with them. My favorite teacher should have logically been one of these popular ones, shouldn’t she? Probably because I was young and didn’t know better, I grabbed a couple of opportunities to try to charm my way into better grades and deadline extensions for projects I did not finish in time. Inexplicably, prolonged assumption of the audacious attitude needed to ask for these favors has instilled in me a feeling of insecurity.
Think about it: If these teachers are so easily influenced by sycophancy, there will always be a tendency for me to worry if I had fawned enough to cinch favor surer and better than those who have fawned longer and more aggressively. Might just be me but I’ve always thought there was a pervasive air tinged with that cloying flavor of post-Soviet despair descending upon the students after the teachers have left and everybody has dispersed.
Then, seventh grade came along as it is wont to do. Since the regular teacher was on maternity leave, we got a new one for Environmental Science. She was the brusque type that can never tolerate jokes during class and would stare until the offender is reduced into a blubbering vat of lame excuses.
Even the inveterately clueless can tell at first glance (or second glance if they are particularly obtuse) that this was the kind of teacher that was impervious to flattery, cajolery, and all other kinds of -ery. I did not pay her any mind. As long as nobody is getting special favors or preferential treatment from her, I need not worry at all. We all behaved in her classes.
I began to notice that this intimidating Science teacher always give credit where credit is due. Her personality left something to be desired but there was comfort in the assurance that my grades for her class were all largely directly correlated to the amount of effort I invested in my tests, projects, and assignments. While my classmates usually dreaded the moment she stepped into the room, I began to look forward to her lessons. If someone is putting in all this hard work to make sure you learn something, isn’t it proper form to return the favor and try to actually learn? I did not enjoy my junior high days and so were not prone to having favorites when it came to anything school-related, but she was the nearest to what approximated my idea of a favorite teacher.
After I became a teacher, I took a long moment to ponder on both teaching styles and realized the merits of both. Aiming to aspire to a teaching style that incorporates the effective points from both styles seem to be the most prudent course of action.
The accounts of the teachers I’ve had as illustrated above may seem slightly caricatured since they were recalled from the (always skewed and exaggerated) perspective of a teenager, but it drove home the point that there are always limits to how much you can cater to the students and to how hard you can hold on to your integrity as an educator.
Naturally, it is possible for a teacher to be both popular and still have integrity. I’ve realized this after I went on to university and encountered many professors who are a credit to their vocation in terms of professionalism, exemplary classroom management, and inspiring teaching philosophy. If you’ve learned how to balance the delicate art of incorporating student expectations in your teaching while still maintaining your principles as an educator, you may just become someone’s favorite teacher.