I tried my experiment again recently. Two different students tried to be teacher for a whole lesson. They are generally good students, they had a plan and motivation, so what could go wrong? Yes, everything! At the end of the lesson, they felt depressed, angry and frustrated. They did not understand what had happened. No one was listening to them. They lost control quickly. Their plan didn’t turn out as they thought.On the other hand, I made some observations myself while sitting in the last row with the other students. I was shocked at several things. How I didn’t hear anything anyone else said when they participated and how little anyone cared. How quickly I fell back into the role of a student, talking to others, looking at the clock repeatedly, waiting for the lesson to end. How other students completely went nuts, running around in class, throwing stuff, insulting the teachers, although I saw everything.
I spend a whole lesson with the class today to discuss our observations. It was one of the quietest lessons I ever had in this class. The student-teachers said how baffled they were that even their friends didn’t help them and misbehaved. They realized that you need to be really well prepared to give a proper lesson. I told them they shouldn’t take it personally and that I didn’t actually blame anyone for what happened. Because I realized that this experiment was bound to fail.
The mere idea of not having the teacher standing in front of them, makes most students do what they would never do otherwise. It makes clear how much they have to repress their feelings and instincts during “normal” lessons. They were not able to hold back, to try this out, simply because the normal authority was not present for them. Which to me proves the danger of authority again because if they feel the need to do all those crazy things so strongly, authority must force them to hold back these feelings every day, all day. I know it’s common to get angry at students for being loud and being rude but isn’t it possible that if they were used to not being controlled so much that they would calm down? Call me idealistic for believing that but hearing my students talk about all of it so calmly, kept my hopes up. They don’t want school to be like, to behave like that, but they are so rarely allowed to actually behave like they want that they are very confused. Repression of wills leads to repression of feelings. Authority cannot be the basis for an open, fair and rational relationship between students and teachers. It leads to forced behaviour and lessons of pretence. I am not interested in teaching that to young minds.
see also DMZ: No Future