The Nonconformist Teacher

non-conformist

Memo from the Dean

Dear Prinicpal/Director (sorry, I never know what to call you these days);

I wonder if you would speak to one of my lecturers who is causing me some difficulties.

Ok, he has not been teaching for long, but his scores in the feedback exercise from the students are unusually low.   Apparently he uses no technology at all – that interactive white board which cost us so much just sits there idle through his classes. He has posted no notes on our college server – which is not surprising, as he seems not to produce any notes for the students at all.

I have tried to get final marks from him, but he just says he believes in formative assessment only, and he doesn’t want to mark one student higher than another.  As you can imagine, that attitude would bring down the entire system.   We should not forget that next year’s renewal of our accreditation is imminent.

He probably is in need of some formal training in teaching methods.  Some of his classes, so I have been told, are hardly more than a series of stories, one after the other.  Not that he is always in class. One time the students had to go and find him and his excuse was that he was praying. He also does quite unconventional things in class.   One day he brought a child into class as a visual aid and since it was not his child, I had to rebuke him for breaching our child protection policies.

I also have some problems with his activities outside the classroom and this is serious because they could easily erode our support base in the churches.  He has been seen talking to prostitutes and others of a similar sort. He has also, unfortunately, begun to involve his class in his extra-curricular activities.   The other day he took them all to the wedding reception of a friend. Not only did the wine flow freely but, apparently, he seemed to be in charge of the wine himself.

Look, it’s not all bad, all but one of his students love him.   One was even heard the other day to say that he would die for him, but of course that it is just talk.

He doesn’t seem to respect me either.  Do you know the other day he actually offered to wash my feet? – Cheeky fellow (do they really smell?  You can tell me).

What do you think?  Could we change him enough so that he became the sort of lecturer we want at our college?   Maybe the best thing to do is just give him his three years and then get rid of him. It has been done before.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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8 Comments on “The Nonconformist Teacher”

  1. Alan McCormick Says:

    Did He think to ask the students what they wanted, or consult widely before gaining consensus as to what would be the best approach? 🙂

  2. perryshaw Says:

    As Joe Bayly once said, “The only similarity between Jesus’ way of training and the seminary’s is that each takes three years.”

  3. Allan Says:

    At least we have the authority of our accreditation agency on our side to be able to make the right decision about whether to grant tenure to this teacher.

  4. Martin Accad Says:

    Wow! I actually didn’t see it coming Graham :), until I got about half way… But seriously… It can be annoying to have a faculty that provides no notes to students, no grades to admin, is late to class (because he’s praying), and just tells stories instead of communicating data. One of my great concerns when I teach a class is: “am I giving students their money’s worth? Such as $1,400 for a 4-credit course for example?” It’s a bit intimidating 🙂 Thanks Graham for good food for thought.


    • Hi Martin,

      Yes, I guess the purpose of the post was to demonstrate that lecturers who are “non-conformist” to the norm should be listened to and not necessarily pushed into our pretty tight mould these days. Read as advice as to what lecturers should do, it doesn’t work – at least I hope no-one of my lecturers sees it as justification for not doing his or her job inside the current contextual framework.

      Graham

  5. Jim Murdoch Says:

    Oh Graham! No need to give a reason for making us all ask of ourselves: ‘Did Christ have any say in my lecture today? Was He present in the room or just me?’

    Thanks Graham for making this lecturer think about himself!!!
    Jim

  6. beth barnett Says:

    This piece is a helpful humbling reminder that those who teach formal theology in colleges are not engaged in a process anything like the ministry of Jesus. We do well not to imagine that our program runs parallel to his. He didn’t write anything, he didn’t give sustained, reasoned philosophical discourses (thank God!), and it’s a stretch to say that he preached sermons or presented lectures as we would identify them. He wasn’t a pastor either, and many pastors would also benefit from reflecting on this. There is a temptation to think that if we are engaged in the tasks of theology, we are somehow being more like Jesus. Such a romanticisation is the source of many a case of messiah complex/burnout.
    Theological education can only benefit from honest cultural self-consiousness, and great clarity about the sources of our distinctive pedagogies. The more we recognise the reasons we behave as we do in the classroom (eg. influence of enlightenment Idealisations of rhetoric; vacant anthropologies; hierarchies of communication culture, etc…) the greater our freedom to pursue alternate strategies that correspond to the shifting rubrics of education we work within, and the concrete conditions which shape the theological questions and missiological tasks into the future.


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