Teachers Are People Too
Teachers are only human. While they are great sources of knowledge in the field of their choosing, their authority is not necessarily absolute. Information and how it is presented varies, as well as the material that is actually covered in any given school district over the course of an average eight- or nine-month school year. However, all teachers everywhere should still to be respected as they are entrusted with passing on this information to future generations to help them better understand the world.
People aren't perfect, and neither is the education system at large. By fixing what we can, and by not trying to fix what isn't actually broken, we can succeed at improving the quality of life in regard to education if we consider the following:
1. Respect everyone around you as fellow human beings. Empathy is important, and it can coexist within the teacher-student relationship without hindering the leader-follower aspect of it. While it goes without saying that children need to respect their elders, their elders should not abuse their power and need to respect their students as well. Even though students are expected to be obedient no matter what, they are more likely to do so if they are shown respect in return instead of simply being told what to do all day with no explanation other than "Because I say so." Learning to following the rank and file is one thing, but learning to follow someone blindly is another, no matter who it is.
2. Keep the students informed and aware of the system. Explanations of instructions are just as important as the instructions themselves. Explaining how an activity will benefit students instead of just barking orders helps the system become more of a democracy and less of an oligarchy. Students have teachers to answer to, and above them are members of the administration. At the very top is the board of education, the members of which are supposedly held accountable by the voters, who may also be parents with children in the school system. Although students are only allowed to vote for their own student body administration, perhaps those in the student body and others who care about this kind of thing should become more informed about the decisions made by the school board which directly or indirectly affect them. Voters should pay attention as well, though what the elected officials do after becoming elected is out of the public's hands.
3. Nobody is infallible. Students will always make mistakes from time to time, and so will teachers and administrators - admit it. Not everyone can get along all the time, but at least have the common sense to recognize when you're wrong without pride getting in the way. Too often, students recognize that teachers' mistakes are swept under the rug while they are punished for making the same mistakes (being late or forgetting to turn off a cell phone, for instance). While this is not always a big deal, judge wisely. Lead by example, and if you expect students to overlook your mistakes, you must be willing to work with them on theirs from time to time. Nobody is right all the time, and they shouldn't be expected to be. This includes both teachers and students as much as anyone else.
4. Make the classroom a safe haven for all who enter. Some teachers have stickers on their classroom doors declaring that theirs is a judgement-free zone. Even those without such a declaration are expected to live up to that promise. Bias does not belong in the classroom as it is supposed to be a neutral territory. Despite any clashing of personal beliefs among students or between a teacher and his or her students, all must be welcome and respected despite the differences in lifestyle choices, circumstances, and creeds. If we can't do that, it becomes that much more difficult to learn anything. Distractions are tough to call, but if no one has a legitimate complaint, let it be.