Do We Really Need Bad Teachers and Bosses?
As my children look forward to their school summer holidays one of the things they are celebrating is the retirement of a teacher who has almost wiped out any interest they ever had in his subject area, led to many Wednesday night, Thursday morning tummy aches and headaches, and generally undermined their confidence and closed down their learning.
This, in the same week that Zenna Atkins Chairman of the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) told the BBC “every school should have a useless teacher”.
She goes on to say:”In society there are peosple you don’t like, there are people who are incompetent and there are often people above you in authority who you think are incompetent, and learning that ability to deal with that and, actually surviving that environment can be an advantage”.
So do we really learn as much from bad teachers as good teachers? My children would vehemently deny this. When I was at school I had a maths teacher that scared me silly. I used to pray that he would be off school ill or on holiday. He was a big man with crew cut hair, a huge thick neck and a handlebar moustache. He reminded me of “Spike” the bulldog in the “Tom and Jerry” cartoons. He used to have us all stand out at the front of the class playing mental arithmetic games and when we got the answer wrong he would call us “Fathead” or similar names and send us back to our seats.
What did I learn from him as a child? I learned to fear maths, I learned to hate standing up in front of people, I learned I was stupid and I learned that I was over sensitive.
As a grown up I have unlearned those things and learned the truth. I am a speaker who loves to get up and share with my audience. I’ve learned that I am intelligent. I’ve learned that although Maths remains a weakness, it’s a weakness through lack of application, and I don’t need it enough, and I’m not interested enough to do anything about it. That’s my choice.
It’s clear that teachers are not just passing on knowledge but are also modelling behaviour and values so their impact is more far reaching than mere subject knowledge.
Am I grateful for that experience? I’m not sure. It may have eventually made me stronger as a person but it made me feel weaker at the time, and I’m still poor at Maths. Would I have benefitted more, socially, personally and in relation to the subject, from a good teacher? Yes! You Bet!
So how does this relate to good and bad bosses? Well again, we learn from both good and bad bosses not as teachers but as role models. According to Michael Lombardo and Bob Eichinger in their book “The Leadership Machine” good bosses model values and skills, and we learn from them by observing them and asking them questions. Bad bosses help us learn about integrity and compassion by experiencing how awful it is to be on the receiving end and therefore how not to be the same.
However, if I asked you whether you’ve benefitted more from good bosses rather than bad bosses I suspect your answer might be the same as mine. Yes! Absolutely!
So my questions for you are:
- Who is more memorable to you? Good or bad teachers? Good or bad bosses?
- What was their impact on you?
- How has that shaped who you are now?
I’m really looking forward to your responses.