Teacher, Choose Your Words Carefully because You Are a Figure of Authority

Posted by on Feb 12, 2013 in Mommy Concerns & Smart Parenting | 0 comments

Teacher, Choose Your Words Carefully because You Are a Figure of Authority

“You don’t deserve to be 2nd Honor”

Because my 7-year old son found it quite difficult to recite the multiplication facts of 5 correctly the other day, his Math teacher cracked this careless comment to his face, humiliating in front of his whole class.  This incident was accidentally revealed to me last night when my son and I were reviewing for his Math Long Test.

He answered 10 questions incorrectly out of my 70-point questionnaire and while we were in the process of discussing the merits of studying and pointing out mistakes, he blurted “My teacher is right, I don’t deserve to be 2nd Honor!”

My first response of course was to flare up, I am no saint. I almost dropped  a swear word in front of my kid. I am naturally an even-tempered mother, but in my instant anger, I wanted to storm the school that very moment and address this insolence immediately.  You must understand that this kind of injurious comment, cast by teacher, a figure of authority, will cause furious ripples even with the most placid of us when directed to our children.

After a few minutes, I calmed down and decided to be objective about this.  I poked a few questions instead so I can understand the real picture.

Me:  “Why did teacher say this?”
Makus:  “She said this because I can’t recite my multiplication table of 5 correctly, I keep on making mistakes.  I was just repeating my girl-classmates answers.  Girls have bigger minds than boys.”

Me:  “When did this happen?”
Makus:  “This incident happened last week.”

Me:  “Who said this?”
Makus:  “I don’t feel comfortable saying her name because you might do something that will get me into more trouble.  I don’t want anyone getting into trouble because of me.”

Me:  “Do you believe you don’t deserve to be 2nd Honor?”
Makus:  “I feel like she’s correct. I find Math so difficult; I can never memorize my multiplication facts!  If I can’t even get my multiplication table correctly, what business do I have being in the honor list! ”

At this point, my 7-year old son was crying.

Forget being objective! At this point too, I had to restrain myself from making a scene in front of Makus. Imagine a teacher, a figure of authority in an educational institution, the second mother to my child, putting this burdening idea in my son’s head and worse, ridiculous as it may seem, my son believes it.

Speaking from Experience

I was never great at Math as a child.  As early as my Elementary days, it was the only subject in my list of least favorites, having been triggered by all the intimidating number equations I see in the blackboard.  To me, Math was ambiguous and difficult and no amount of studying can prove me incorrect.  Often times I asked myself, “Who the devil invented Math?” All my assignments were wrong, all my tests and quizzes were failed.  All my attempts to understand the subject were futile and unrewarding. I regarded Math as a burden I had to survive every school year and the dreadful anticipation of the long Math years ahead became a nightmare.  The start of each school year was the start of another terrifying year of doing Math.

I can’t exactly pinpoint what triggered my animosity for the subject. But I do remember people around me saying I’m hopeless in Math.  “Napakabobo mo! Wala ka nang pag-asa.” (You’re such an idiot! You’re a hopeless case.”) They would often say.  And in this, I conveniently believed.  I was happy to accept their observation because it justified my weakness and I didn’t have to exert some more effort to study it.

In the start of every school year, my Math teachers would always strike me as the most intimidating, the most unaccommodating teacher among the lot.  I clothed all my other notebooks beautifully with flowers and ribbons, but my Math notebook remained bare to the end of the school year.  All my school books showed indications of being read, however my Math book remained crispy and seemingly untouched till the end.  I remember all the time I tricked my teacher to send me to the clinic for toothache or stomachache during Math classes.  And when I finally ran out of imaginary sickness, I excused myself 15 minutes before the bell rings, only to stay in the girl’s comfort room – cleaning toilet bowls.  I would rather wipe them than spend the last 15 minutes of my Math class, listening to lectures I will never understand.

My cousin who was an Engineering student volunteered to tutor me one time, but gave up in the end concluding that I have an IQ of an arthropod.

But of course I did not get away from all these because I had to spend almost all my summer vacations in school, ending up doing remedial Math classes.  Looking back, I can genuinely claim Math as the cause of all my misery during my childhood days.

algebraic expression

When college education time came, I took up studying Sociology believing it is the only course with the most minimal Math subjects in the curriculum.  I was right, Sociology was offered with only 6 units of Math — College Algebra and Statistics.

This was my turning point – On the first day of class, my professor made me stand up.  He asked me to freely discuss how I feel about Math and what I mean to achieve in his Math class.  So I sang my whole opera of frustration and fear for the subject.

He made me sit in front of him, right after his table.  He made sure he had my attention, and then continued to explain that unlike other social sciences where all topics are subject to different interpretations, Math on the other is an exact science. My professor took me under his guidance. He gave me unending seat works and assignments to help me improve my understanding and further master the subject.  He was a follower of the saying “Practice Makes Perfect”.  He believed that before my semester ends, I will have a different outlook in Math.

True to his words, I found College Algebra to be the easiest subject, whilst my other subjects required me to pass pages and pages of essays on contemporary social studies, Algebra didn’t.  I suddenly understood the logic behind the equations.  I have unlocked the mystery of Math!  Math is logic all along!  Overnight, it became my favorite school subject; the world suddenly went topsy-turvy when I got to finish my exams first with perfect scores.  I was famous in my class, my assignments were copied by my classmates left and right, my professor even employed my service at some point, made me check the test papers.  He even allowed me to discuss an algebraic expression once in his absence.  I finished my semester, receiving my legendary and crazy grade of 1.25 (94-96, A-, Superior) grade in my College Algebra.  I conquered my fear, for the first time, I felt proud of myself.

What was that about?  That was no miracle. My teacher enforced a positive attitude to learning.  While he believed in my ability to learn, he assisted me by providing me with exercises that would hone my understanding of the subject.

Now, as a mom, as much as possible, I wish my son would not follow my footsteps.  I don’t want him to start like I did many years ago. I want to him to appreciate Math and develop a love for it the earliest possible time. My son responds positively to kind my words when we review his Math lessons.  He has no qualms when I make him answer long seat works.  And I am just a mom; my approach to teaching is based only from how I understand my son and his limitations.

But from a DepED-licensed grade school teacher, a figure of authority for developing first graders’ minds, I am expecting more.

 A teacher, a figure of Authority

teacher drawingA figure of authority is any person that has administrative control over others or someone who is regarded to have influence over people.   In a community, he would be the police, in a church, he would be the priest, in an office environment, and he would be the manager, at home, they would be our parents, at school, he would be the teacher.

Inside the confines of an educational institution, a teacher, being a figure of authority commands not only the children’s attention, but also their respect.  They are held in high recognition and patronage being the personification of knowledge with immaculate characters, good morals and excellent conduct. In every sense, a teacher is an archetype that every child looks up to.

In this light, allow me to say my point:  Whatever a teacher says becomes true to the understanding of a child, so better yet, choose your words carefully teacher, think and re-think before you deliver an idea to the sponge-like, developing mind of a child.

Take the case of my son for example; my son is a perceptive child who never had issues with authority.  Even at home, he willfully accepts that Mommy is the boss; he never threw a tantrum just because Mommy wouldn’t buy a toy he especially likes or because Mommy won’t allow him to watch his favorite movie before sleeping.  Never did he act. Of course, I encourage him to argue my decisions, only to gauge his understanding of our issues, but in the end, my rule prevails.  Makus is a boy who looks up to role models, but then never give him a reason to doubt you, but  that’s for another story.

math gradeSo when his teacher told him in class that he doesn’t deserve to be 2nd honor, he believed her, justifying even this faulty remark while his tears were falling down.  As his mom, of course I knew crying is his sign of self-pity.  Did my son have to undergo this kind of trauma?  Considering he is working hard in his studies to earn his 2nd honor place.

A figure of authority’s opinion that attacks a child’s self-confidence and worth could make or break a child.   I had to assure my son that he deserves his 2nd honor place; I had to convince that he is a hard-working, outstanding student and he should never believe if any one tells him  otherwise.  He may have flaws, he may prioritize playing over studying sometimes, but it’ quite normal because he is a kid who likes to play just like any other kid.  I showed him his excellent grades, convincing him that those are very good ones, and that I never had those kinds of grades when I was his age.

Instead of dropping thoughtless comments, it would have been a more positive approach if she pointed out my son’s flaws.  She could have ordered my son to spend more time memorizing his multiplication facts.  It would have been more beneficial if she said “Makus, you’re a good student, but at the rate you’re studying your multiplication facts, you might lose your 2nd honor place so you had better give this some serious attention.”

But to tell him “You don’t deserve to be 2nd honor” is just plain inconsiderate,  insensitive and not helpful.

If you are a teacher, a figure of authority, in my humble opinion, it would be wiser to choose your words carefully.  You’ll never know when you’re breaking a child’s heart.


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