by Dr. Shanthi Thomas
Teaching, they say, is one of the noblest of professions. To mold the future citizens of the world is indeed a job that is praiseworthy. An ideal teacher is one that students will look up to, not only during their student life, but also throughout their adult lives. Most teachers live out these ideals of the teaching profession, but as it always happens, there are exceptions. There are teachers who have landed in the wrong profession perhaps, or are not temperamentally suited to it. Whatever the reason be, there is no doubt that there are teachers that create a toxic environment in the classroom. How do we recognize a toxic teacher?
There is nothing more toxic than a teacher who humiliates his/her students in front of the other students in the class. Believe it or not, there are teachers who humiliates students who hand in a shoddy piece of work, or do very badly in the examination. Such teachers make life traumatic for the less able students, and the scars in their minds remain fresh and painful even after many years.
Some teachers create an aura of unapproachability around them, so much that students are frightened to even ask legitimate doubts. This kind of a teacher will not entertain any kind of healthy discussion around a topic or help a student who is trailing behind.
There are teachers who literally do not care for their students. They just enter the class, teach and leave. Whether students have understood what she taught or whether her pace is appropriate to the intellectual capacity of the class is of little importance to her.
Teachers nowadays are generally not a happy lot. In many countries teachers are not paid well. They are burdened with too many tasks. If family problems add to this already unhealthy mix of negativity, the teacher gets frustrated. And the one individual that she can unleash her frustration on is the student who is powerless to stand his ground against any emotional outburst.
There are umpteen number of instances when a teacher has reduced a student to tears. The reason could be anything from not wearing the uniform properly to not doing well in a test. The teacher might, in such cases, often justify herself that a little bit of emotional trauma does not hurt if it brings about a desired result.
In the education systems around many countries of the world, there are standardized tests that determine the level of educational attainment of the students. In the case of many education systems, it is the end-of-school exams, such as the GCE O’ level examinations. It so happens that there is competition between schools as to which school can produce the best results. Obviously, the pressure is one the teacher to produce good results. This kind of a teacher focuses on getting the students do well in exams disregarding their ability to learn or the kind of family background they have.
The rule-oriented teacher is inflexible. A rule is a rule, whatever be the circumstances. If there is a rule that no jacket can be worn over the uniform, no matter how sick and cold the child is, he will be made to remove the jacket. Such rule-oriented teachers do not realize that rules are made for the wellbeing of students, not the other way round.
Nothing pains a student more than a teacher who favors certain other students in the class for some reason. They have ‘pets’ in the class, commonly called teacher’s pet. Usually such students are those who do very well in studies, hand in all assignments on time and do not cause any discipline problems in the class. But there are also teachers who favor students on the basis of their financial status or class, or any other inappropriate reason. Needless to say that such teachers get immensely unpopular within a short period of time.
Can a teacher be too friendly and permissive? This is the other end of the spectrum. A teacher can be so friendly and permissive that students do not respect her as a teacher, do whatever they want in her class and suffer no consequences in return. Such teachers are toxic because no learning takes place in a chaotic classroom where the teacher is not in charge.
Also read: Problems Facing India’s Education System
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