Shortsightedness Cripples Teaching

Have you ever imagined wanting to become a millionaire in a matter of a few weeks? I bet you did. All of us, at some point in life, fantasize becoming very wealthy in a short period of time. We might have different reasons for doing so, but the fact remains, all humans possess a natural tendency to obtain successes as quickly as they can. We simply can’t wait.

In 1998, my friend and I embarked on a mission (I would rather call it a ‘mission impossible’). We wanted to become millionaires by holding huge seminar on ‘personal-development’ and related topics. Our aim was to have at least 10,000 people per seminar session, and we planned on having a few such seminar. We were just completing our Bachelor’s degree at that time. We thought that the world would recognize us as experts and authorities in the field of ‘personal development’ and support us by getting excited about what we have to offer them. In short, we were overwhelmed by our intentions to make lots of money and were misguided into believing that this was a sure success plan.

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The time came to implement our action plan. To our surprise, we failed miserably. We ended up conducting NO seminar at all. It finally dawned on us that wanting to become wealthy isn’t a matter of a few weeks effort and planning (especially to become wealthy from scratch, without having any money or properties passed down to us from our fathers and forefathers). From this experience, I learned a vital lesson, the hard way (we did lose lots of money because we had invested a lot in preparation for the seminars): Shortsightedness Cripples Our Vision and Obstructs the Attainment of True Success!

How does this experience relate to teaching? Well, most teachers get frustrated (rather quickly) with students (especially the ones who are not performing so well) and admit defeat prematurely. They lose motivation to provide contructive intervention to these students because in their minds, “It doesn’t matter anyway…it won’t make a difference if I do this or that to help to improve the student.” A sense of hopelessness is directly or indirectly communicated with students and this serves as a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the end, students who do poorly continue in that state because they are expected to do so.

Social psychology calls this the ‘stereotype threat’. When students become aware of a negative stereotype that teachers hold of themselves, they will be unfavorably/negatively affected by this thought. Their performance worsens. All doors for improvement are closed when a teacher communicates shortsighted viewpoints about students in the classroom.

Instead, a caring teacher focuses on the long term outcomes and gains of educational and psychological interventions administered in the classroom. He/she is farsighted and knows that students, when given the chance, support, and encouragement, can improve and excel in all areas of life. Some students take more time than others in the achievement of success. However, a good teacher is fully aware about the importance of communicating ‘farsighted-messages’ (messages of hope and limitless possibilities) with students. By doing so, a caring teacher taps into the hidden resources of students’ potential and maximize their abilities and accomplishments. Farsightedness is a mental attitude that effective teachers possess and it is reflected through their daily behavior, thoughts, and words toward students.

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Teachers who look for quick-fixes and short-term gains in the classroom communicate a sense of hopelessness to students. However, teachers who look for possibilities and long-terms gains communicate a sense of hopefulness and accomplish a greater deal as educators! From my experience in teaching, I can testify to the fact that students love teachers who are farsighted, because these teachers are perceived to be understanding, practical, generous, and optimistic.

Copyright June 2006 by Dr. Edward Roy Krishnan, www.affectiveteaching.com

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