Teacher Power, Student Pedagogy by Christian Zowodniak

Teacher Power, Student Pedagogy by Christian Zowodniak

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Lead us, don’t leave it to us:
Christian Zowodniak’s views on Student Pedagogy

In the essay "Teacher Power, Student Pedagogy", Christian Zowodniak describes the manner in which an instructor should assert his power—his power to grade fairly, his power to share his knowledge with the students, and his power to help students, not frighten them. Since my enrollment at the University, I have encountered the most extraordinary teacher in my history of education. His name is Dr. R, his expertise, Mathematics. Dr. R exemplifies the proper technique for teaching any given subject. He displays active teacher involvement and uses it to make the students think. His technique is strange, but it works.

As a freshman, I didn’t quite know what to expect from the teachers, the students, or even the bus operators. I was told many things by my fellow collegians about the instructors here. My College Algebra course was the most frightening of all—especially the teacher I encountered. I heard through the "grapevine" that I was sure to fail his course, not because the course itself was hard, but because the teacher was even harder. Despite all of the horror stories, I decided to tackle this course with all of my wits. To my surprise, I prevailed; I aced the class, which is due largely to the magnificent teaching skills Dr. R displayed. He is able to give students a reason to learn mathematics by applying real-life situations to the problems. Dr. R tends to make students feel at ease by being personal; his way of acknowledging good work in class seems to motivate them to study four or five hours a day just to keep up the good work. He also spends many hours organizing his website, one filled with many helpful links. After taking his class, I learned to appreciate the science of mathematics.

Imagine entering a classroom with a pre-determined opinion of your new instructor; I did and it was not a fun experience. All that ran through my mind was failure; here I was in a strange place, with an impossible teacher. Dr. R appeared to be unrealistic, a person with a goal to fail everyone. This presumption was totally wrong. As the course went on I began to realize that he intended to "weed" out the students who didn’t mean business, successfully I might add.

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Nearly half of the class dropped the course within the first half of the quarter. Now the rest of us could get down to business.

Dr. R has a teaching method that really involves critical thinking skills. His enthusiasm for math and the world it opens one up to is quite obvious in his day-to-day lecture. He caused me and many other students to actually become interested in our work and very fascinated by the enormous capabilities of mathematics. I now know that by measuring the diameter of my contact case I can calculate exactly how many milliliters of solution I use everyday—neat, huh? Dr. R is willing to work overtime to help the students in every way possible, supplying a wide variety of knowledge. He has created a website for his class with unending sources of information, on subjects from absolute values to maximum values. It contains links to encyclopedias, search engines, practice tests, news reports on diseased cows, nearly every valuable piece of information conceivable. There is even a daily count of the United States’ increasing population. Dr. R also keeps his students informed quite well by e-mailing everyone regarding grades, material on tests, individual performance and so on. The icing on the cake is that he congratulates excellent progress quite often. This personal interaction illustrates the student-teacher involvement necessary to help the students open up and work hard, if for no other reason than to please the caring instructor.

Many people would think that the interest displayed by Dr. R is fictitious, there to get him through the quarter. I have found, though, that his concern is truly genuine. It has been several months since I took this course, yet he e-mailed me two weeks ago. I must share with you his words:

Siyo [hello], Melia!
Just a quick note. I am hoping you had a great quarter. When it’s all done, let me know how you did, if you like.
I hope you will never forget what a great potential you have, to learn and do anything you want to accomplish; I hope you will always do your best.
Don’t forget that I plan to brag about knowing you when you have become famous!
Best regards to you and your family.

The above message represents Dr. R as a whole: his concern for my grades, his flattering compliments on my character and potential (student-teacher relations), his sense of humor, and his consideration of my family. He is a well-rounded teacher, if there is such a thing.

Many instructors will tend to display an "I will have to help some of you more than I want to" attitude (Zowodniak 124). It is the students’ job to make that teacher help them more than he or she would like to, whatever is necessary for you to succeed. I once heard a teacher tell a student, "I have my education; I will get paid whether you get yours or not". This statement may seem very callous, but it is reality. Many students have the assumption that a teacher has to make you learn. This assumption is a fallacy; an instructor is there to deliver the necessary information for you to pass the class. The students’ display of interest will prompt an instructor to really teach, not leave it to the students to "figure it out". Dr. R is the one who displays the interest in his class; his is sort of a "reverse psychology" method, and it works very well. His display of interest prompts the students’ will to learn and do their best; this is what a teacher is all about, or should be.

Works Cited
Zowodniak, Christian. " ‘I’ll Have To Help Some of You More Than I Want To’: Teacher Power, Student Pedagogy." The Presence of Others. Eds. Andrea Lungsford and John Ruszkiewicz. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997. 124-31.
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