The Backseat Teacher

I was standing outside a school’s basketball court watching an ongoing secondary basketball lesson conducted by a PE teacher/coach and as the students started playing, I noticed that the head of the secondary department was standing on the other side waiting for the period to end so he can use the place. Although he also payed basketball, he was not teaching at that moment and was not part of the ongoing class in any way. He taught another subject to these particular group of students.

As the class progressed, this department head started yelling at the students telling them what to do along with other basketball skills he knew and more instructions non-stop. The students kept on looking back at, and paying attention to, their teacher who was also giving instructions and struggling to get his message across as this “head’s” voice was too loud. The class ended with students leaving the court disappointed. Some of them stayed behind and played with this “department head” and the other teachers who were there.

Ethics in the workplace

In any education institution friendships develop between individuals (teachers-students, teachers-teachers, and teachers-other staff members). This friendship eventually leads to community members looking after others as member of their family. However such closeness sometimes lead to overfamiliarity, which if one is not careful may overstep his boundary. It is easier to see one’s border in the workplace when there is a physical wall and a door between where a staff who needs to speak with someone has to see if it is appropriate to enter someone’s classroom. And even if it seems alright to enter, one still has to knock on the door even if it is open especially if the person inside is not paying attention. It does not matter who the one entering is, skill wise and rank wise. But in the case above, the trespassing teacher failed to see the invisible wall between him and the ongoing class inside the basketball court. His attitude was perhaps influenced by his being the teacher’s superior and being a PE teacher himself as he served as the former coach of the students.

Educators are not only teaching skills but they are also inculcating habits, culture and attitude to their students. One company trainer once said that the most important thing a person has to learn is the right attitude before learning any skill. Once a person has the right attitude, learning a skill will be easy.

Educators are teaching their students attitude by their actions and the way they treat their students as well as the way they deliver their lessons (skills). Most of the time what students will remember after they had completed their education and moved on with their lives are not the skills and information the teachers were trying to feed their students, but they way their teachers conducted themselves in the class as well as outside the classroom. Most of the things they remember are not what their teachers taught them, but what they were as human beings. The worst even is that in many instances, the students adapt the bad attitude of their teachers.

Negative results

The backseat teacher mentioned at the outset was the former basketball coach of the students for a few years. However, they had never won a match with other competing schools. When the new teacher came (at the time of the above-mentioned incident was his second year) the students’ skills started to improve. Of course one of the factors was that he has been coaching basketball at his former school and was also a legitimate player as compared to the back seating department head who, along with another teacher, loved to bully their students inside the basketball court. However, the other important aspect was that he was a soft-spoken person and mild in his dealings with the students. And along with that, he was able to teach them the right strategies which they easily learned and absorbed. At the end of that season as well as the following year, the students started beating other teams, and their female counterparts became the undefeated champion.

Still not accepting their failure, another teacher who belonged to the back seating group claimed that they had been training these players many hours a day which helped them become skillful players. Well, their group had been coaching the same students for many years prior, but the students never improved. As I personally witnessed how they coached the students during their match with other schools during their time, I can say that they just read books but never experienced playing in a real match, and never had been part of a coaching team.

For a teacher or a trainer, it only takes 30 percent of the whole effort to teach skills but 70 percent the attitude to use and apply them.


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