The Jokers in the Academe
I have been a teacher since 1988. It has been a long journey full of ups and downs and filled with joys and sorrows. I don’t regret anything that I have experienced as a teacher and proudly I could l say that I triumphed over all the difficulties and pains because I wouldn’t last this long in the academe if not.
I worked in 8 different schools in the Philippines, in 6 as a full-timer and in 2 as a part-timer. Here in South Korea, where I am teaching now is my 2nd university.
Go back to the previous paragraph and count the number of academic institutions where I worked.
Two short of a dozen.
In those schools, I met different kinds of students, administrators, and – teachers… the best and the worst.
This essay deals with teachers I refer to as “jokers in the academe.” The experience I had with them taught me to have a great deal of patience. There were times also that I lost that patience.
Yes, you need to be patient when you encounter the jokers among your colleagues… jokers who aren’t funny but annoying.
I am not saying that I am a perfect teacher. I still have lots to improve. At least I have been trying my best to conform with the existing and evolving professional standards set for teachers.
And most importantly, I am not a joker.
And who might these jokers be?
One of those that I classify as jokers are the “super dependents.”
The “super dependents” are teachers who will not solve their own problems. They expect their colleagues to do that for them. They are the ones who hate exerting extra effort to find a solution to their dilemmas. Their sense of entitlement is so strong that they think that it is the duty of the people around them to help them get out of a difficult situation.
What these jokers consider as problems are not problems to begin with.
For example – the school requiring teachers to apply a new technology in the classroom. That for them is a contentious issue. They would try to dip their hands deep into their bag of reasons to justify their not complying with it.
You would hear the lamest of excuse like “their training as an educator did not include applying those technology.” Another excuse, lame also, “It’s labor-intensive.”
They are like square pegs in round holes. No amount of explanation would make them buy the idea that being a 21st century teacher teaching 21st century learners would require the learning of 21st century skills.
These jokers don’t understand that part of their responsibility as educators, if they really consider themselves as educators, is to retool and retrain if necessary in order to cope with the demands of what has become a technology-driven pedagogy used by 21st century teachers.
They should not subscribe to the idea that “old dogs can’t learn new tricks” because they are not dogs… they’re human beings who are supposed to be rational.
Anyway, let’s talk about dogs.
They bark, right?
Some of the jokers in the academe are like dogs. They bark a lot.
I call them the “barkers.”
These jokers bark about their disagreement with school policies and what they perceive as incompetence among the “people upstairs.” They are the eternal fault-finders who see nothing but negative in the organization. They live to seek the “tiny black in an ocean of white.” For them nothing is right, everything is wrong.
They complain day night except when they go to the ATM machine during payday.
Do they deserve their pay? Are they doing their job? Only them and their students could tell.
Yes, there are times that they have valid reasons to disagree. But what is frustrating is that they bark up the wrong tree. They don’t address their concerns to the right people at the right place and at the right time. They grandstand during meetings wasting precious time of their colleagues. They force them to listen to their misguided eloquence. Sometimes they also write long unsolicited e-mails where they express their grievances. They don’t understand that not everybody in the organization share their opinion about the policies and the leaders of the schools.
The funny thing is these jokers just bark but they don’t bite.
They do nothing about their complaints except bark about them. But when the administrators responsible in implementing the policies they disagree with are present in the meetings, they are very quiet, silent in one corner of the room wagging their tails.
These jokers curse the school and their administrators at every opportunity they have… telling everybody that the school is the worst place to be… yet at the end of the school year they wag their tails as they sign their names on the dotted lines for a contract extension.
The last category of jokers in my list are those who applied (and luckily got hired) as teachers even if they are not qualified and trained for the profession.
They are the ones I call the “pretenders.”
Yeah, they pretend to be teachers.
These jokers applied as teachers because there are no other jobs available and (luckily) there are schools willing to hire them even if they are not qualified to be teachers.
Among these jokers are English teachers who believed they are entitled to be English teachers because they can speak the language. I have emphasized in one of my essays that “a perfect accent and an impeccable grammar don’t make a person an English teacher.”
Knowing a subject matter is different from knowing how to teach it. The former is only one of the many requirements for the latter.
“Real teachers,” those not pretending to be one, know what it takes to be a teacher. Teaching is not parroting the contents of the book. It’s not delivering a monologue in front of the students.
Teachers need to choose the best strategy to use in the class from a variety of strategies available. They have to set objectives and test if those objectives are met. They need to differentiate the levels of their students and identify the corresponding techniques and activities suitable for those levels.
“Real teachers” know what philosophy would inform whatever they do and say in the class. They know which sociological, psychological, historical and legal foundations upon which they would base all their decisions as teachers.
It means that the job of a teacher is so complicated that not just anybody should be allowed to teach. And when a school commits the mistake of hiring applicants who are not trained to be teachers, expect them to become the jokers in the academe.
In the academe, most of those who complain a lot – those who create a lot of troubles – are the ones who are not really trained to become teachers. These jokers are the ones who seemed to be lost in the wilderness not knowing what to do and how to do things in the academe. They are the ones who would blame others when they encounter difficulties and can’t figure out how to deal with them.
The common trait among these jokers is that they want everything given to them in a silver platter. You need to explain to them in detail (and repetitively) how to perform tasks that teachers are supposedly trained to do. Sometimes they would even require their colleagues to do things for them. They would not bother learning how to do it
Beware of the jokers in the academe. They’re not funny.
These jokers are but few in the organization. You could actually count them with your fingers in one hand. I was advised not to mind them but it’s so difficult to just turn a blind eye. What’s dangerous is that they are contagious. They contaminate the working environment. They have the ability to flip the organizational climate… from positive to negative.