December 16, 2002
The virtue of imperfect but persistent teaching

I did a posting earlier today for this blog. No, yesterday, it's now just past midnight. But during the brief time in the afternon when I might have posted it here, this blog was not working. I believe the "server" was "down". The technology involved in all this stuff is not my strong point, although I am learning about it, slowly. So I put this posting on instead.

It was about a teacher who, in my opinion and if my understanding of her own classroom report was anything to go by, had done rather less well than either she or Joanne Jacobs thought she had, although I'd be the first to admit that I probably wouldn't have done any better in similar circumstances and I dare say far worse.

One of the samizdata commenters thought that the lady I had criticised ought to get the sack. I'm guessing that he has his own educational "issues" with such people. But if what I wrote here on Saturday (in the posting just below this one), about a school severely afflicted by excessively high staff turnover, is anything to go by, having imperfect teachers who nevertheless stick around and do their best is a far better policy than sacking any teacher who ever makes a mistake, however minor, or for that matter even sacking one who exhibits a persistent weakness. What if this teacher can be a sarcastic so-and-so but sure talks up a storm when she's explaining (as she was) about Gutenberg?

I recall a remark made by the head teacher in Vile Bodies, the novel by Evelyn Waugh. He greets the novel's young protagonist, who is to start teaching at his boarding school deep in the countryside, thus: "I'm well aware that no-one seeks employment at an establishment like this without a very good reason which he is anxious to conceal." Something like that. Most of us can remember times when we've learned things from most unlikely and often severely imperfect and very nasty people.

I hope that the teacher whom I criticised over on samizdata does what I'm sure her pupils are doing, despite any mistakes that she may or may not be making (after all this was only my opinion), which is: learn, and improve, and get a bit smarter at what she's doing, day by day. If what I have written here about the educational value of blogging to the blogger is true, then she definitely will.

Maybe she'll read my samizdata posting. And maybe she'll even learn something from me and from those commenters about how to do her job a little bit better, although of that I am less confident. Personally I hate being criticised, especially when the criticism is constructive.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:38 AM
Category: How to teach