A popular opinion nowadays is that “The teacher always knows best.” In a sense, this phrase is used to justify keeping the government out of the teaching curriculum, giving the teachers more room to teach what they want. People often fear that the government will impose upon schools what to teach, when to teach, and how to teach. To an amount I agree with this, however I believe we romanticize the idea of how much the teachers are actually capable of. At least in my experiences the teachers that spout “The teacher always knows best” were never that good of teachers.
I understand that teachers do have to go through a good amount of training and education before they are able to be in the classroom, but that doesn’t mean they’ve learned everything. Some teachers will create a strict system to abide by, using that same method every year to teach new sets of students. There is nothing wrong with a curriculum, but it is the flexibility of the curriculum that determines it’s strength. For instance, let’s take a history class. Every year the content will be mostly the same, but the way the students ingest information will fluctuate from year to year. One year students may be informed best by looking off a Powerpoint presentation and taking notes from a lecture; another year students may prefer to do book work at home at reconvene on everything in class. Some students like to do a lot of presentations, some like to do skits or projects, or whatever it may be. It is the social conditions of the class that determines how they learn best.
At this point, for being a student for the majority of my life, I insist that the student themselves know how to be taught best. It is the job of the teacher to work with the students to achieve that level of satisfaction with the students needs.
Another thing needed to be taken into account for a productive learning environment is the teacher themselves. Teachers are people too, but many times they don’t show it. I believe there is a direct relation between how much the students like the teacher, and how much progress the students make in the classroom. I’ve seen it many times before. If a teacher is too harsh the students will participate less, be more likely to doze off, and do less work outside of the classroom. Likewise, if a teacher is too lenient the students will take advantage of that, and the same results will be produced. It a takes a nice moderate stance. The teacher must be both liked and respected. And again, how the teacher gains both of those depends on the social condition of each individual class. It is a learning process.
I know that immediately some people will say “If you are strict enough then the students have no other choice but to learn.” And while this is true, if you are strict enough they will have no choice but to do the work and put up with it or fail, you immediately make them despise that subject. I can have an absolutely awful, mean, harsh math teacher, that gives so much work that I do to keep from failing, and I may be forced to memorize all that’s being taught, but that isn’t true learning. When those kind of conditions are imposed then it isn’t true learning, it is simply regurgitating. As a result you kill all genuine interest the student had with that subject, because they’ll associate that subject with the awful teacher they had. This is why I’ve seen students that are brilliant at a subject loathe going to that class, because they’ve had a string of awful teachers.
And the final method to be discussed here is to make learning a group effort. By this I don’t mean to constantly assign group projects, but to make class discussions a priority. For instance in a history class letting the students discuss the implications of certain events, by looking at the evidence what caused the events, what kind of social impact did it have, and so on. It always amazes me how much of history is open to interpretation. Or for a STEM class it would be beneficial to allow students to teach one another how to work out problems, give them sample problems, and work as a group to solve more complex problems. The social learning environment gives incentives for all students to be participating, instead of one or two students deciding to sit out.
For how much our society claims to value education, it’s amazing how little effort we put into creating the most efficient system. Hopefully education reforms come soon, or a few teachers at a time rearrange their method to fit with the changing generation. At the very least, society should invest in education. Because without it, there would be no society to be invested in.