Fight For Your Right To Learn!

I was so inspired by the TedXWomen evening (live retransmission from New Orleans) which was held at Cinéma La Scala, in Eaux-Vives, on 2 November. So many speakers were perseverant men and women who fought hard to have access to a good education.

I am sure you will agree that we all deserve a quality education given by knowledgeable and respectful teachers. Yes, we do!

The Bad Biology Teacher

As I feel it will certainly benefit many of you, I would like to share with you the story which recently happened to two of my students.

The lovely Wendy is a busy professional and mother of three who moved to Geneva one and a half year ago. During our last lesson, she told me that she was very concerned about her oldest son, who recently started tutoring sessions with me, as he had received verbal abuse from one of his teachers and would appreciate my advice on the matter.

So, here is what happened. His biology “teacher” made fun of the young man, in front of the whole class, for getting a low grade on his last test. To “prove his point”, he asked the teenager to read aloud quite a complex paragraph from the biology book. The teenager nervously read the text and inevitably made a few more pronunciation mistakes than he normally would as he was being put on the spot in front of his classmates.

But wait. What does perfect French pronunciation even have to do with biology class?

The bad teacher then highlighted the fact that his French was “so appalling” that he should leave the school and enroll in an English speaking institution, where he really belongs.

Ma montée de lait

In Quebec French, a rant is poetically translated into a ”rise a milk”. You know, that moment when a mother feels it’s time to breastfeed and if anyone or anything gets in her way, they’ll remember it for the rest of their lives!

Now, if there is something I cannot bear with, it’s injustice.

This, my dear francophiles, is the perfect example of a HORRIBLE TEACHER. I give him 5 stars for using the best strategy to discourage students from learning French (or biology!), EVER AGAIN!

Let’s remember that, less than a year ago, this young man courageously rose up to the challenge of attending a French speaking school, with no previous knowledge of the French language whatsoever! This means that he had to learn French while attending/surviving all his regular subjects, in French, and successfully complete his normal year in that new language. In order to put yourself in that young man’s shoes, imagine doing maths in Lithuanian and not understanding half of the words you see which are key to problem-solving. Wouldn’t it be hard?

Chapeau, jeune homme! (Well done, young man!)

And you know what? I bet this bad teacher doesn’t even speak any foreign language.

Ignorance make people fearful, close-minded, unsympathetic and compassionless.

How To Deal With Bad Teachers

If you are the one dealing with a bad teacher or you are helping your child or a friend, the first thing to do is to realise that you have the right to be treated with care and consideration. You are paying this teacher to provide you with their educational services and it is only fair to request that it must be done in a mutually respectful atmosphere.

I hope one of my 5 conseils (advice) will be helpful to you, in the unfortunate event that you come across a bad teacher in the future!

Conseil no 1

Discuss the situation with a person you trust, who knows you well, and who ideally knows the teacher so you can come up with an action plan together.

Conseil no 2

If possible, talk with the teacher directly to let them know how you feel. (In some cases, they might not have realised that they have hurt your feelings and/or negatively interfered with your learning process.) It should be clearly stated that their behaviour at the moment of the event was unacceptable and unpedagogical (it goes against the very nature of teaching). If you feel uncomfortable to meet the teacher alone, bring a friend, another parent, a colleague or another teacher to the meeting. You could also write an email or a letter to the teacher if you feel that a face-to-face meeting would be too difficult.

Conseil no 3

If the teacher justifies their behaviour by the fact that you or your child are slowing down the class by asking too many questions and by not being at the same level as the rest of the students, remind them when you arrived in Geneva and how much progress you have made since then. Ask them if they have ever been in your situation : an expat who had to relocate and to work hard to learn everything from scratch. Offer them a solution: ask to be paired with a “language buddy”. This person should be another student who speaks both English and French well enough to translate important explanations which are necessary for you to keep following the class. Make sure to sit next to each other so you can easily whisper questions and answers, only when necessary. This solution should please the teacher as it doesn’t require any extra explanations from their part and should make you both feel like things are moving forward. Your “language buddy” might very well become your best buddy from that moment onwards!

Conseil no 4

If the teacher says that they are too busy to meet you or simply brush off the event as insignificant, do not hesitate to contact the head of the school for a meeting to discuss the matter. Ask around to see if other students have been suffering from that teacher’s inappropriate bevahiour and collect all testimonials as extra proof of their misconduct. Make sure to put the details of the event in writing and come prepared to the meeting with any questions you might have (what’s the next step, school policy with regards to teacher’s misconduct, etc).

It never is easy to confront a faulty teacher, but it is often necessary to make things better in the future and to avoid giving up on a subject which should normally be fun to learn.

Conseil no 5

If there really isn’t anything you can do to make things better, I recommend finding a new teacher as soon as possible! If you must absolutely complete the lessons with this very teacher, I would use Robert Sutton’s advice. A professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University and the author of Good Boss, Bad Boss and The No Asshole Rule, he recommends to “practice the fine art of emotional detachment or not giving a shit.” By ignoring the irritating behaviors, you neutralize the affect on you. This type of cognitive reframing can be effective in situations where you have little to no control.

En espérant que vous n’aurez pas trop souvent besoin d’utiliser ce conseil…!

Pour aller plus loin…

Read my great tips on How To Recognise & Avoid Bad Teachers on my blog.

Learn French or English Online With Isabelle

I hope you are convinced that we all need to fight for our right to learn with great teachers!


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