In the readings and the video about Paulo Freire this week, I stopped at his sentence “It is necessary in being a democratic and tolerant teacher to explain and to make clear to the kids that their way of speaking is as beautiful as our way of speaking“. Actually, this is concurrent with one of the controversial topics in social media in the last few days. This post , is about a father who stood up for his daughter who was being made to feel bad because she had a better (or a different) answer than the other kids. The girl got the question “What is the largest number you can represent with 3-digits?” in a standardized test. The intuitive answer is 999, however the girl came up with the answer 9^9^9 (written as superscripts without the power operator). Whatever the answer is correct or wrong it is a big debate and others are getting other formulas with larger values. What concerns me here is that, the teacher and the school’s principal did not show any flexibility with this answer. The teacher claimed that they did not study powers yet!. Which forced the girl’s father to go the long way to get his daughter’s right.
The question here, “Is the teacher’s behavior pedagogical?”. I don’t think so at all. The teacher could be right in some part, but he dealt with the problem in a superficial way. To put together other unprofessional activities from teachers, I suggest reading the post. The post is entitled “Great teachers: perfectly imperfect“. The post mentioned two situations where teachers caused deep effect to young kids with their way of humiliation. I want to quote the conclusion of this article “The point isn’t that we should hold ourselves to a standard of perfection in our interactions with students. But we should hold ourselves to perfection when it comes to owning our imperfections and their impact on students.“
On the other hand, there are brighter sides in this story. Another teacher wrote an article entitled “Five of the biggest mistakes I made as a new teacher“. I think this an important article for new teachers. The article gives five critical mistakes that this teacher committed which are: She took things personally, she avoided dealing with parents, she waited too long before intervening with students, she was afraid of making mistakes, and she were trying to cover everything. From these points, I want to stress that she discovered that it is not the world’s end if she made a mistake. She was making up answers for the questions she does not know, in order to remain the smartest person in the class. However, when she let her students see her making mistakes and then admit them and further taking steps to correct them, this made it okay for students to make mistakes too. The more she took risks in the classroom, the more she made it safe for students to take risks.
Finally, I want to conclude with a story that happened to me in a networking class two years ago. The homework for this course was only short answers. The professor gave us the questions and I made everything correct and I found that I got only 90%. He graded one question as wrong while I felt it is correct. I contacted him and explained my view point, we were to calculate the length of one packet in bytes, (the packet is a combination of ones and zeros). The packet length varies according to the type of the packet. The type mentioned in this problem does not use some of these ones and zeros, so I just ignored them. When I explained this to him, he gave me partial grade. I again felt unfair, I looked in the protocol specification and I found that I was right. I contacted him again with the protocol. He thanked me for this information, informed me that he thought the packet length was fixed whatever the protocol. He gave me full grade and asked me to share this protocol with my class mates. What concerns me here is the instructor was very flexible. He gave me and other students with the different answer, the full grade. I believe that is what Paulo Freire meant in his talk to be a tolerant teacher.