Wanted: Teachers who can lie to students without hesitation!

Published: September 5, 2016 at 8:36 am

Last Updated on

I often wonder about who is a teacher? Or what defines a good teacher. People often expect a teacher to inspire and motivate. How exactly does a teacher do that?

A teacher without passion can suck out the soul and spirit of eager young minds much like a dementor in the Harry Potter stories. Unfortunately, many join up as teachers because “they did not get anything better”.

So passion is an obvious prerequisite but for what?

A passion to make students comfortable – not just with the subject, but with themselves.

A classroom should be a place where students lose their inhibitions and can ask questions without fear. To enable this, the teacher should discuss the subject as an equal and not be afraid of being proved wrong.

Every class can be approximated by a bell curve. Kids who do not need a teacher and can learn on their own, form one tail. Kids who are not interested learning form another tail.

The central mound is filled with the so-called average students. Kids who may go on to excel if teacher lend a helping hand. As a teacher, my focus is on this mound. If I can make a small fraction of this group lose their inhibitions and make them believe that they have it in them, I would have done my job well.

This brings us to the title of the post. We need teachers who can go in front of a class and lie without batting an eyelid: I have confidence in you guys. I have faith that you are the best among the world and with some dedication and hard work, you will excel. 

It is a lie because there is often very little evidence to back that up! It is a harmless lie and a gamble.

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Tell a class that they are no good, chances are only a handful will take offence and work to defy that statement. The rest would see that as proof of what they think about themselves – not much.

Tell a class that “I have confidence in you” (remember that song from Sound of Music?) then it will fire people up. Not all of them, but enough of them.

In order to take such a gamble, the teacher must be a secure person. Mental security comes from professional competence. Clarity of thought tags along with competence.

It is this clarity of thought that defines a good teacher. Clarity about the subject and clarity about their role in a student’s growth curve.

All this sounds nice, but the trouble is, do educational institutions worry about such aspects when they hire teachers?

It is unfortunate that encountering “good teachers” is plain dumb luck. It ought to be way more frequent than that.

A salute to all the teachers who had faith in my ability when I myself did not.

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Pattabiraman editor freefincalM. Pattabiraman(PhD) is the founder, managing editor and primary author of freefincal. He is an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. since Aug 2006. Connect with him via Twitter or Linkedin Pattabiraman has co-authored two print-books, You can be rich too with goal-based investing (CNBC TV18) and Gamechanger and seven other free e-books on various topics of money management. He is a patron and co-founder of “Fee-only India” an organisation to promote unbiased, commission-free investment advice.
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  1. Why transfer responsibility from the student to the teacher? If YOU are the one who is interested in learning, go find a teacher who is good enough for the job. And only YOU can determine whether something is worth paying attention. Like Ekalavya, learn to be a good student, and then may be a good teacher will appear.

  2. “Tell a class that I have confidence in you. It will fire people up”.On this premise there were several real incidences are there to quote.Recently I read a book ” The habit of winning” by Sri. Prakash Iyer.The author under caption “the power of positive expectations” quotes an experiment conducted in a school in Texas.
    As long as we have positive Pattus world looks brighter sir.Thanks for the nice post really glorifying the role teaching community.

  3. Dear Pattu sir, I take this day as an opportunity to express my sincere gratitude and I thank you for educating us about the most important aspect of life ….day after day !!

  4. sir,
    today the problem is exactly all teachers telling they have confidence in students and all are geniuses. that is more american psychology because if they dont tell like that some mental student will get up and shoot the teacher.

    today, if dronacharya and kripacharya were school teachers and pandavas and kauravas were students, then kunti will be busy attending daily parent teacher meetings because arjuna is a genius in archery but is failing in wrestling so he needs special class daily after school

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