As part of my many roles, I volunteer to go into schools and provide mentorship to teenagers on how to assimilate into the real world after education. The idea being that someone with real-world knowledge can give important insight into the ever-changing society we live in.
As a media specialist and communications consultant, this tends to focus on engaging with what the world might look like in 2030 and beyond, and how technology, automation, and artificial intelligence is going to disrupt many of the jobs they might currently be being prepared for. After all, they very well may end up having a career in a field that does not even exist yet.
The teenagers sense this. They are looking at the universe through a very different keyhole than many of their teachers, and it can be hard to link what they are studying to that world.
Recently, I was mentoring a 14-year-old when we suddenly heard a teacher scream at a student. My first thought was this must have something to do with personal safety. Perhaps some form of science experiment was about to go seriously wrong and damage the space-time continuum, or a risk-taking selfie while hanging over a banister.
It was hard not to listen. We were around a corner, out of sight, and my mentee looked at me uncomfortably.
The screaming continued.
“How DARE you question my teaching”
“How come the rest of the class knew what to do, but you didn’t?”
“It was on the BOARD!”
This continued for six or seven minutes. We heard the lower voice of a boy reply in between, calmly. The screaming teacher continued.
When you know you are of worth, you don’t have to raise your voice, you don’t have to become rude, you don’t have to become vulgar; you just are.”
– Maya Angelou
I wonder now if I had stood up and made it clear I was there, would the teacher have felt awkward? Did she know that what she was doing is totally inappropriate? Or is this common practice?
I asked my mentee. He replied that not all teachers do, but then listed the names of those that did, “Mr. X, Mrs. Y, etc.”
It momentarily made me smile as I remembered how school teachers cling to the formality of not sharing their first name, as some out of date way to create the illusion of respect and authority.
Some readers will now be siding with the teacher. Saying that teenagers are feral, and what they actually need is a slap, and the cane never did you any harm.
I used to own a martial arts studio until recently. I taught self-defense for mind and body, so let me make this clear. Screaming at someone is interpersonal human aggression. It is assault. This teacher was assaulting that boy. Either she was out of control of her emotions, or she was acting angry as a tool to scare and punish a boy.
Neither are acceptable. Neither would get that students respect.
Even celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsey, who is known for screaming abuse at those in his kitchen, understands that children need a different approach.
You raise your voice when you should reinforce your argument.”
“How DARE you disrespect my teaching.”
Is the line I keep coming back to. The level of ego in that statement astounds me. The lack of self-awareness, self-control, leadership, emotional intelligence, and empathy, that this teacher was showing suggests a very troubling culture. Especially when it is those soft skills that all teenagers should be learning. But from who? Certainly not this teacher.
Teaching is not personal. The students don’t know who you are, other than the role you fulfill. They are not disengaging out of spite or failing in order to make your job harder. They don’t know who YOU are.
You are a cog in the machine of the educational system, and you will not survive it if you take it personally, and allow your emotions to rule you.
All screaming has done is help to disengage this student, and lose the respect of anyone that heard it. I suspect that when the teacher gets to the staff room or goes home, they will be incredibly disparaging about those they are supposed to educate.
The screaming stopped, and they went back into the classroom. I turned to my mentee.
“Let me know if anyone screams at you like that. No one has the right to do that to you.”
He nodded and walked back to class. I hope he heard me.
Previously published here and reprinted with the author’s permission.
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