As teachers we must acknowledge the power we hold. We may try to deny or mask it or try to level the playing field for our students but at the end of the day we hold a powerful position.
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According to Mayer (2012) power plays an important role in conflicts and he examines the fourteen sources of power: formal authority, social legitimacy, legal prerogative, information, association, resources, rewards and sanctions, nuisance, procedural, habitual, moral, personal characteristics, perception of, and definitional power. As I read each source of power I realize that as teachers we hold 10 of the 14 sources of power and the student has 1. An imbalance of power for sure. I believe it is essential as a teacher to be aware of this power so that we exercise it carefully and mindfully. If we hold onto our power too tightly we may alienate the student and ultimately affect learning.
Brookfield (2015) talks about being an authoritative ally and that there comes a time when the teacher must make a decision between learning and the requests of the students; the teacher overrides what the students perceive as their needs. It takes a paternalistic stance and says ‘I know that this is better for you in the long run and I know best.’ People often like to stay within their comfort zones because it is safe there. Students may resist doing an assignment in a different mode than they are familiar with or be challenged to see things from a different perspective. Learning isn’t always comfortable. There are many phrases I find myself repeatedly saying to my students and this is one of the them: “Some of the greatest learning is on the brink of fear and uncertainty and sometimes we must push through it with the proper support in place to take hold of it.” As teachers we are trying to stretch our students’ minds. We are opening their eyes to new ways of thinking and different ways of doing things. This is the life changing transformative learning that I strive for when I teach. Ultimately this type of learning is what gives me the deepest meaning to my work.
Brookfield, S.D. (2015). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust and responsiveness in the classroom (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Mayer, B. (2012). The dynamics of conflict: A guide to engagement and intervention, 2nd edition. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons Inc.