Group Dynamics – Teacher/Student Relationships


Teaching is at best a difficult proposition.

Recently a young friend of mine ran into an interesting situation when his college professor issued grades on an assigned essay. For all the class to see, the instructor wrote the breakdown on the chalk board. At the very bottom of the prodigious list of letters was a single zero—- zero is given at the small community institution for only two reasons: failure to turn in an assignment or cheating. He was guilty of neither.

When his paper was returned to him, a glaring red note effaced the work. “This is listed in my grade book as a zero until we talk. Please arrange a meeting in my office.” When the student approached the professor’s desk after class to make a date to discuss the composition, the teacher did not know that he was indeed the aforesaid accused, although he had more than an adequate period of time to familiarize himself with the small class.

It makes one stop to ponder who taught this man of learning.

Is it any wonder that the student in the above scenario lost respect for his professor?

The internet is filled with available groups for bloggers, authors and want-to-be writers. We converse with experts and novices on a daily basis. Life in this electronic world is complicated, communication instantaneous. In online interactions we often forget that our written words have no inflections, no emotions. One of my blogging associates, Kristen Lamb, recently said that writing is like boxing– you must learn to take a punch. That seems to be most certainly true about writing networks and all of our internet interactions.

You may very well be someone who gets knocked down and gets up again…

However, we all need to keep in mind that not everyone can withstand that same verbal blow. We are all at different stages of our boxing…err writing careers. Identified as professionals or teachers in this field, it becomes a responsibility to encourage, not discourage.

Sometimes we know a great deal about our chosen topic, but little about interacting with others.

Respect is something that is not difficult to embrace and is two directional. When we speak thoughtfully to others who are trying to learn, we demonstrate our capacity as profound teachers. When we are derisive, we garner their disrespect.

I have been guilty of many things in conversations– primarily, of forgetting that my typing lacks inflection or stage directions. The results can be that of dealing a punch without intent to damage. I may be joking, but my subject— unaware of my sense of humor—believes that I am in a boxing match. In retrospect, I can understand the sensitivity of a student or a teacher as I poised my cannon of humor and fired the trigger. It isn’t a pretty picture.

Much like the teacher who accuses a student in front of a class without thinking, we fire an “IMHO” without remembering that the other person may not know we are laughing at ourselves. Comments on professionalism or lack thereof need to be moderated with compassion. If our students were already professionals, would they come to our teaching situations?

One thought on “Group Dynamics – Teacher/Student Relationships

  1. Hi, Patrick! ~

    Interesting post. I’m not sure I agree with all you say, but I find it thought provoking…

    I do believe it is my job to encourage myself and others to become more powerful versions of ourselves. That, in fact, is my life mission. However, that doesn’t mean everyone should be encouraged to be a blogger, or to be a teacher or to be what they think they want to be at this moment. Maybe encouraging them to reconsider a mismatched career would help nudge them toward something they would be better at and find more fulfilling.

    I’m also not very good at ‘taking a punch’, as you say, and I don’t want to be good at it. I want to be good at staying away from people who throw punches.

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