Teaching and Influence

Teaching others places the teacher in an authoritative role where influence is highly probable.  This potential influence can seem insignificant, but it may have life-long implications.

Have you known a teacher to abuse his/her authority in the classroom?  Perhaps, by telling students what they should think about a particular concept or thought.

Have you known a teacher that did not include any of their own thoughts regarding the content?  The teacher may have some expert opinion that may help others in similar circumstances.

I have heard many people answer “yes” to both of these questions.  The intention of  a liberal arts education is to provide information so others can learn HOW to think, not WHAT to think.  With this assumption, many educators move across the fine line of coaching vs. giving answers.  This brings me to my anchor question:

How much of our own bias should be shared and expressed in a classroom?

Teaching is truth mediated by personality – Phyllis Brooks

Too much personality and the truth is reduced.  Truth alone may not help students identify how it looks in practice.

We all have biases.  Not all biases are bad.  Bias is a part of being a thinking person.  That being said, there are some biases that affect us in the classroom.  Intrapersonal awareness of these biases is important to staying within the grounds as a teacher.  While there are facts and appropriate suggestions for many situations, many circumstances have more than one “right” answer.  A matter of preference will have more than one answer that is appropriate.  Such as; what you like to eat, a favorite color, where you enjoy vacationing, and others.  Certainly, a reasonable person would realize that I can’t tell another individual what they should believe about these questions.  On a more extreme note, teachers that tell students what they should think about wars, abortion, euthanasia, and other controversial issues may be crossing the personality – truth line defined by Phyllis brooks.  Rather, presenting how students should wrestle with these concepts help develop the skills that allow others to make informed and rational decisions based on their circumstances.

The next time you are in a place to influence someone be aware that you are helping them HOW to think and not WHAT to think.

Dr. Nathan Herzog


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