In this issue of "Get Ready to Lead," Dr. Jeff
Myers reveals the results of a recent survey detailing the top five things that
make bad teachers bad--and the leadership lessons we can learn as a result.
|November 3, 2009||Volume 10, Number 32
Some of the most important leadership lessons come from observing the
behavior of bad leaders and learning
from them what not to do. With that in
mind, this issue of Get Ready to Lead
could hold valuable leadership lessons from which adult influencers--including
parents, pastors, and especially teachers--can learn much.
Make it a great week,
Dr. Jeff Myers
(Email) (Website) (Facebook) (Twitter)
Our Survey's Unexpected Results:
How Teachers Wound Kids
Learning What NOT to Do
God uses bad leaders to force us to rely on His mercy and to teach us how we should act differently.
Three weeks ago, I surveyed Get Ready to Lead subscribers about the adults who influenced them growing up.
Among other things, the survey asked: "Think back on a teacher who had a
significant negative influence on your life and share briefly about who this
person was, what they did that influenced you, and how old you were at the
Of the 464 survey respondents, 345 gave replies to this particular question, and 287 usable stories emerged out of those replies. The
stories shared were evenly spread throughout respondents' schooling years: there were
stories of bad kindergarten teachers, college
instructors, and every grade level in between.
Two quick notes: First, we recognize that student complaints often have to do more with problems the student is
experiencing than the teacher's behaviors. We were sensitive to this in evaluating the stories and focused on ones that described objective wrongs supported by clear examples. Second, about 2/3
of those taking the survey were between the ages of 36 and 55 and seem to be ruminating on the long-term impact of bad
experiences rather than nursing fresh grudges.
The Pain Adult Influencers Can
Here in our offices, I asked Paige to take all 287 responses
and organize them according to themes. After completing this task, Paige said: "This
was the hardest two days of work I've had at Passing the Baton; so many of the
stories were simply devastating." As I read through them myself, I can
hear the deep-seated pain. Here are just four examples:
These teachers may have been forgiven, but they're certainly
not forgotten. The lessons they taught through their negative performance have shaped
both the resolve--and the insecurities--of their students for many, many years.
"A music teacher once mocked me for not being able to
match a note. I was in 3rd or 4th grade. Now, I'm nearly 50. I still won't sing
where anyone can hear me."
- "Our teacher/coach embarrassed me in public at a
sports awards ceremony as she talked about how slow I was as we ran laps...I
received the Most Improved award for 'hanging in there, even though she always
finished last.' Wow...even today at age 39 that still hurts."
- "My fifth grade teacher was one of the many reasons I
chose to home school my children; I swore I would never allow them to deal with
the injustice and favoritism that went on in her class. Forty-one years later I
can still remember the humiliation and anger she directed my way."
- "In middle school I had a teacher who wrote every
student's test scores on a chalk board and publically praised the high performers
and belittled the low performers. As one of the low performers I was
particularly hurt. I had not thought of this for several years and it still
causes me to feel terrible and angry."
Top Five Harmful Things Bad Teachers
I would've expected to read more stories about teachers that
were simply bad at their craft. However, poor teaching skills didn't show up in
the top themes. Instead, five somewhat unexpected themes emerged out of the 287
Other respondents talked about incompetent teachers (those
who failed to prepare or made the subject boring), doctrinaire teachers (those
who demanded a hearing for their own opinions and punished students who
disagreed), and teachers who acted unethically (racist remarks, inappropriate sexual advances, coming to class drunk, etc.).
- Humiliation (78 respondents): Made fun of students, ridiculed students
when they gave wrong answers, and publicly humiliated students. These memories
of awful embarrassment were the largest grouping of stories, by far.
Devastation (57 respondents): Expected students to fail, talked down to
students in belittling and disrespectful tones, were sarcastic, criticized,
and compared some to others who were more talented (esp. older siblings). In most cases folks recalled a specific instance, rather than a general memory,
that wilted their confidence.
- Indifference (45 respondents): Failed to express care for students,
build relationships with them, or invest in them personally. Students felt the
teacher did not like them.
- Poor Punishment (37 respondents): Exercised harsh punishment that resulted in extreme public embarrassment, punishing
students for factors beyond their control (learning disability, the actions of
others) or failing to control the class through effective discipline.
- Anger (33 respondents): Displayed significant anger
problems that led them to explode unpredictably and frequently yell at their
students. A common response from the students was to describe their fear of the
Learning and Growing from Bad
Here are my thoughts as to these survey results:
What do you think of all of this? Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I commit to remember how poisonous these five things are
and to make every effort to substitute good fruits in their place:
- Replace humiliation with humility
- Replace devastation with hope
Replace poor punishment with careful discipline
Replace indifference with connectedness
Replace anger with patience
- I wonder if there are times as a teacher and parent that
I have (either through sheer stubbornness or carelessness) handed out wounds
instead of passing the baton of leadership.
I ask God to bring to my mind the names of people I have
offended and whose forgiveness I need to seek.
I am forced to my knees in humble dependence on God that He
will impart to those I have influenced the grace He has shown to me. It's not a
justification, but I must at least take some comfort in the realization that we
learn and grow through such scarring experiences.
I remind myself to not
act in a way that accomplishes my short-term goal (control) by sacrificing
long-term goals (relationships).