What Happens When a Teacher Knows Less Than Her Students

Remember those teachers who stood and flicked the lights for ten seconds to make sure everyone was standing at attention before they deigned to walk into the room? I suspect that demanding respect would be less common if teachers felt more secure in their own right to be in the front of the classroom. Like, if they were actually qualified and educated, instead of merely a few years older.

I remember the first time I really questioned the training our teachers get. I was in 11th grade. And there was a familiar face back in school. It was a student who had been in 12th grade when I was 9th. She had been an excellent student, a favorite of all the teachers, but still — she was teaching 9th grade Chumash?! I still don’t know why my mind recoils. Did I really think any of my teachers had further training than seminary and a love of learning? What would make her qualified, in my mind? I don’t know. 

Anyway, this story is via Rachel, but from her sister. 

My 8th grade biology teacher doesn’t have a B.A. in biology. Or any science. She has a teaching certificate from [redacted: a local teaching] seminary.

Her lack of qualification in biology is glaringly obvious. She is basically one chapter ahead in the book, which isn’t always far enough. She reads some paragraphs straight out, because it’s easier than regurgitating them, I guess. She mispronounces words and mixes concepts up.

Most of us probably wouldn’t know better, except the goody-goody who reads the chapters ahead every week, but then there’s also our local class science nerd. You know that girl? The one who reads this stuff for fun, at home. Has a shelf full of “Did you know? Nature!” books and  “The Pop-Up Book of the Human Body” and things like that. And she knows more about ecology and the operation of the heart than the entire class — and the teacher — put together.

And sitting through biology class pains her. You can see the torture reflected in her face with each mispronounced word, and with each mangled fact. Sometimes, she can’t help herself. She just has to raise her hand and correct the teacher. I mean, she can’t reteach the entire class during recess. And, okay, this happens around once a week.

The teacher doesn’t exactly love being corrected. So when she gets sick of being corrected by someone six years younger than her, she stands up and gives a lecture about chutzpah instead. That, at least, is a subject she can warm to without fear of contradiction.

“A morah is more qualified and knows more than her talmidos,” she says sternly from behind the desk. “You do not contradict your elders.”

Nobody contradicts her, but we all know she’s wrong.

What Happens When a Teacher Knows Less Than Her Students

2 thoughts on “What Happens When a Teacher Knows Less Than Her Students

  1. Esther says:

    Some teachers are awful idiots – agreed 100%. They have unqualified egos, give Judaism a bad name, never mind the teaching profession.

    I do take umbrage with you mentioning that she was a graduate of Sarah Schenirer. While, not Teacher’s College, it does train its teachers very well. And while this student may have filled in her lesson plans, she obviously wasn’t on top of her game, or as prepared as she should have been. I’d put that blame squarely on her, not the institution she attended.

    While not directly lashon hara, it’s kind of insinuated.

    With all your bashing of the BY system (which I happen nod my head along to most of it), you are careful not to mention actual names of schools or people – which is commendable. Please be consistent.


  2. Bad4 says:

    You’re right — I was wrong. I will amend that later tonight.

    One can argue whether a seminary prepares it’s students to teach (I cannot enter that fray; I know nothing) but I think it’s generally clear that it does not equip one to teach biology.


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