One of the most common sayings in education faculties is that a teacher should strive to be a “guide on the side” rather than a “sage on the stage.” Virtually every teacher has heard this many times during their training.
Pushing teachers to become guides on the side is a pithy way to promote a child-centred educational philosophy. The central idea is that children should, to the greatest extent possible, take charge of their own learning. This includes minimizing any distinction between the roles of student and teacher.
In its most extreme form, educational progressives encourage teachers to become “learning facilitators.” Since teachers are no longer expected to be subject-matter experts, progressives want the curriculum to focus on so-called transferable skills such as communication and creativity that do not rely on content knowledge.
With these efforts to downplay the expertise and leadership of teachers, it should come as little surprise that teachers are struggling to maintain their authority.
Sadly, instead of dealing firmly with troublemakers, Pine Crest’s principal instructed teachers to move away from rewards and punishments. In newsletters to staff, the principal explained that teachers should refrain from trying to assert their power and authority in the classroom. This is the type of nonsense promoted by administrators who take the child-centred educational philosophy to its logical extreme. No wonder teachers feel unsafe.
But while teachers’ unions draw attention to the problem, they do little to promote real solutions. It’s not enough to call on governments to spend more money on public education, nor is it sufficient to conduct annual surveys about violence against teachers. Union leaders should demand teachers be given real authority, and for school rules to be consistently enforced.
Teacher unions should also support the right of teachers to have a safe working environment, which would require suspending and even expelling students who repeatedly refuse to respect the rights of others.
Too many teachers suffer in silence while school boards and provincial education officials force them to adopt the latest nonsensical education fad. Imagine the positive change that could happen if teacher unions used their influence to stand up for the expertise and leadership of teachers.
No teacher deserves to be reduced to a mere guide on the side. It’s time for teacher unions to stand up for the right of teachers to take charge of their classrooms.