Sunday, April 6, 2014

Power in the Classroom

I have been enrolled in a doctoral program in adult education for almost two years now.  My gpa is 3.96 or so and I am ahead of all my cohort on the dissertation, which we are supposed to write during the classwork, a difficult process.  I am taking a day off today having spent the last two days at class and struggling with something.

I did not expect this doctoral experience to change me as much as it has.  I have been in the classroom 35 years and have been taught to examine a lot of my assumptions.  I was always rather self-critical, so examining and questioning my professional practice is a good and welcome and rather natural thing.  However, there is only so much self-criticism one can endure until one feels like her self or his self is being sucked away.  So I end up backing off, being angry that I am expected to change, especially when the person asking me to change is hardly in a position to do so.

One issue that has hit me this semester is the power of the professor in the classroom.  I have a professor for whom I waver between contempt and pity.  This person is wasting my time, dramatically.   I won't go any further than that.  I want to stand up in class and tell this person off, but this person would block my forward progression, and although I am pretty sure my classmates would agree with me to some extent, they would not stand behind me.

This person has power over me because I have agreed to let it be so.  I wanted something and did not realize that the process of getting it would mean having to subject myself to such things.  I see why it is important that young people are careful about where they go to college and to whom they submit themselves.  I am an adult with pretty fixed viewpoints, but this person has assumed power over my viewpoints and misrepresented them publicly.  I have little recourse for the anger I feel, but it's  spiritual problem and I will seek a spiritual answer.

So many college professors define critical thinking as "agreement with me."  It goes no further than that.  They misuse their power, small as it is.  Maybe they realize how minute their power is and therefore wield it as much as they can.  

The point:  pray for this person; the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous person (and I'm only righteous because of grace) accomplishes much.  I have been discouraged lately that it seems that the Christian faith holds me responsible for other people's spiritual state.  First of all, it does not; that's nonsense, despite all the preaching.  I am also discouraged that so many of those around me have intractable viewpoints.  Again, they don't, they only seem so.  I am encouraged to pray and leave it at that.

All this has made me more conscious of my own possible use of power in the classroom, although I like to think I don't misuse it.  I may be wrong, at least at times.  To eschew any classroom power is also to shirk responsibility. 

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