Professions all seem to nurture inside humor that can be misinterpreted when it gets out. The outsiders may not appreciate blatant hyperbole nor recognize subtle understatement.
This is particularly true with a profession that seems be a bit ambivalent about itself. At times the education profession is too tough on itself and then a moment later it is feeling sorry for itself. It is this ambivalence that sometimes leads us in the teaching profession to a gentle cynicism that barks worse than it bites.After 40 years in the teaching trenches, a gentle curmudgeon retired and left us a guide. His goal was probably to invite misinterpretation so that those he left behind would be uncomfortable in his absence. Since most lists of things are in tens, like top 10 and bottom 10, the Dr. John R. Hendrickson Guide for Perplexed Teachers is a list of 14. This allows those of us who are ambivalent, perplexed and cynical to pick and choose for our own personal top 10.
And now for the first time, in the spirit of inviting criticism we don't need, the public can look over our shoulders as we choose from rules written especially for us. The public may even suggest other rules for the guide. We expect that parts of the guide may even end up as law since the Legislature is in session.
FOR PERPLEXED TEACHERS
By John R. Hendrickson
1. Always keep this simple fact in the forefront of your mind: students must know as much as teachers in order to understand them.
2. Because students seldom know what you are talking about, try not to talk about anything.
3. Be fair. Give students all sides of every issue, and then tell them which one is right.
4. Don't worry about failing students. They may become Churchills or Einsteins.
5. Don't pity F students. If God didn't want them, he wouldn't have invented them.
6. If students say "I'm a failure," agree with them. This is humane. No one likes to be contradicted.
7. If students can't write, tell them to draw.
8. If students lack confidence, tell them to wait. Anything might happen.
9. If students don't have goals, give them posts and tell them to make some.
10. If you want football players to do well in class, break their knees.
11. If you want basketball players to do well in class, tell them to stop dribbling.
12. When decisions are absolutely necessary, be decisive even if wrong. Anyone who thinks long enough becomes a passionate fence sitter.
13. Sleep on all big problems. They may go away, or the world may end.
14. Finally, if you feel you are in the wrong profession, that you are wasting your time, think about administrators and politicians for a minute. If that isn't long enough, try 30 seconds more.
- Roger Baker is associate professor of English/education at Snow College. Comments or questions about "Learning Matters" may be addressed to Dr. Roger Baker, English Department, Snow College, Ephraim, UT 84627.