How do you deal with creepy teachers

Prof. Dr. Kurt Singer

To be called - "Sadistic mini-thriller in horror and joy"?

Will I be questioned today? - Who of us will get it today? - Does the teacher call me? - Do I have to be on the board? - Quite a few students worry about such questions at breakfast. For many it is part of the Essence the school, to be queried without knowing whether it hits it today. Parents take the terrifying ritual of questioning for granted. This query does not make sense because of its fear-inducing character. In addition, it is tactless to “turn on” children without letting them speak up; because they are often exposed to an embarrassing situation.

Again and again, pupils talk about their fear of being suddenly called, questioned and queried in class. They fear the excruciating situation for some of having to go to the board and do the math. One adult (7) describes in retrospect what a psychological and physical catastrophe it can mean for young people to “get on with it”.

The classroom is man’s largest chamber of memories, and school days are a crazy mixture of horror and exultation. That mini-thriller, for example, that little study in sadism with which the lesson is opened by some teachers: the ritual of inquiry. Get out of the security of the class community, in front of the blackboard. Who should it be this time, there is rustling in the little book, page by page, letter by letter. The breath catches, the heart wants to gallop, a break in sweat announces itself. And then, seconds before the name is mentioned, the lightning-fast certainty - this time it's your turn ...

Pupils cannot learn well with fear - the dangerous situation obscures the learning process

The reason for abolishing inquiries would already lie in the fearful situation, because in it learning becomes a minor matter. Not on that Learning content focus on the student but on who danger to avert your turn or to evade it as quickly as possible. Armin describes his strategy towards a dreaded "query teacher" as follows:

“My mind revolves around the best way to avoid being intruded. I have to watch the teacher closely to find out how to escape the robbery. If I look at him with interest, maybe he won't answer me? Or should I look the other way? Or nod your head in agreement? Or pull something out of your school bag? Or cross your arms? Should I get in touch so he can take someone else's turn? Do I have to behave as inconspicuously as possible? ... That occupies my fear. But what the teacher says about the subject matter, I cannot absorb in this situation. "

More correct answers in an encouraging classroom atmosphere

Frederic Vester (8) carried out a test with several groups of students from different classes. A few weeks later, a well-worked-through learning material was queried. And in different ways, according to a sophisticated distribution key that allowed reliable statements. In one group of students, the teacher asked in a friendly, encouraging manner. In a relaxed atmosphere and with a clear definition of the problem, he asked the students to show what they knew. In another group of students, the knowledge check was carried out in an intimidating atmosphere. The students were treated impersonally and rudely; the teacher said he didn't think much of the class. The effect of this different treatment when querying the learning material was clear:

  • In the group of students who were asked in a climate without fear and pressure, 91 percent knew the correct answer.

  • In the group of students who had to think under fear and devaluation, only 50 percent answered correctly.

Couldn't such effects - repeatedly shown by educational psychology - bring the parents to their senses as a result of a fearful or friendly teaching atmosphere? You would then, for example, advocate abolishing the hundreds of thousands of scares in everyday school life.

Descend into the "memory chamber classroom" - "Didn't it hurt us either?"

Teachers could release a lot of learning energy in the children if the students were sure: “I am only called when I speak up. my teacher never embarrasses me. ”To do this, they would have to recognize how they - often unintentionally - terrify students. In the case of shy children, however, it is more dramatic than in the case of self-confident children.

Parents of schoolchildren can easily take that which always occurs in the classroom as "natural" and keep silent. It could stimulate them to object if they go down into their own “memory chamber, classroom” and illuminate it: How did I feel as a child? What fears and joy did I experience in class? Was I taken seriously with what was bothering me? Was it comfortable for me when someone called me and how was it when I stood in front of the class and didn't know anything? How did I experience it when weaker students embarrassed themselves? Did my parents help me when I reported on scary school situations?

Awakening your own school experiences with the power of memory is often associated with emotional pain. But it makes you “see” and empathize with what children experience. It is then not so easy for them to say the merciless sentence: “It didn't hurt us either” or “You just have to go through it”.

How would it be for you if you were suddenly called during an event?

If you felt the threatening finger pointed at you, possibly with a strange sentence like: “Repeat what I said!” It is particularly uncomfortable in a situation in which you have just thought something else or talked to your neighbor. Pupils experience it as particularly unfair to be called when they are "chatting" or "dreaming" or not paying attention: in other words, in situations in which it is obvious that they cannot answer. It would be more decent to “bring” the young person first instead of exposing him. The adults should imagine what it would be like if they were "called" on a parents 'evening, questioned in a meeting, questioned during a meeting, in the citizens' meeting or in a group of acquaintances. They probably described such an authoritarian "calling" meeting leader as tactless.

"The shock of being" caught "still sits in my bones today" - appeal attacks make people feel insecure

The student Sophia R. reports in a seminar how the shock of appeals from school still affects her behavior today. Although this event was not “called”, she was repeatedly feared that she could be “picked up”. This fear also has the effect that she does not dare to speak up; because she could say something wrong: "Note six, set", this rebuke is still following her. Sophia reports:

I was always incredibly excited when I feared I might be questioned. It didn't help that I learned seriously and that I could still safely reproduce what I had learned at home. For me it was an unjust sentence that one of my teachers kept proclaiming: “Don't fool me, if you've learned well, you don't need to be afraid.” I listened tense during the lesson so that I wouldn't miss anything . But when I was called, I was frightened and felt my heart pounding up to my throat. I thought nervously, looked into the ground, and was confused. I searched helplessly in my head for thoughts. But my mind was blocked. Somehow I couldn't believe myself that my knowledge was gone. I felt hot surges in my head in my excitement. Sometimes I felt what I was asked about was on the tip of my tongue, but I couldn't get it out. Then I began to guess something, hesitantly saying something wrong. And the teacher knew anyway that I couldn't get anything out of me. I got my bad grade and was left alone. A classmate then said the correct answer and I sat there disappointed. What annoyed me the most and made me really despair: Shortly after the panic passed, I remembered what I had learned. I could have said it now; but it was too late.

Thinking blocks: Stress hormones hinder thinking

Sophia was blocked by the appeals shock. It was only when the shock subsided that she was able to regain her knowledge. Many know the horror when they are called unexpectedly. Or they know the pitfalls of fear when they find it difficult to speak in front of a large group of people. We can understand the needs of the students psychologically. But we can too neurobiological Use the findings of brain research for understanding. Because every emotional movement is connected with a physical event. The danger experienced in the fearful situation triggers a reaction in the body: it sends stress hormones into the bloodstream. These hormones - adrenaline - are supposed to instantly prepare the body for high performance, for a sudden attack or for an escape. They raise the blood pressure and mobilize the fat and sugar reserves.

“But deep inside our brain, these stress hormones do something else as well: They influence the switching points between nerve cells. Wherever the individual nerve fibers are in contact, there are button-like switching points, the synapses. These switching points between the nerves transmit nervous stimuli from one neuron to another. The synapses regulate the flow of information in the brain. Orderly thinking and recognition is only possible with their help. When there is fear and stress, the hormone adrenaline is released into the bloodstream. These stress hormones not only mobilize the body to attack and defend itself. They also influence the switching points between the nerve cells. "(8)

Rising adrenaline levels block nerve currents in the brain - damaged memory

The stress hormones prevent the impulses arriving in the synapses from being passed on. This has its biological meaning in human self-preservation. Any "thinking" would have delayed the saving leap from the enemy or the dangerous animal in prehistoric times. “After all, nature could not have suspected,” writes Frederic Vester, “that our modern society would link stress and alarm reactions with learning and thinking, of all things, with a process in which such processes have the least place.

As soon as the level of adrenaline in the brain rises, many impulses are not transmitted through the synapses in the brain. This is the moment when we cannot think of something to bend and bend, in fear of exams or in a panic, or when being called up in class. The information learned cannot get to its destination and we are dealing with mental blocks, sensory disturbances or memory gaps - no matter how well one has learned something. ”When suddenly called up in class, the students' thinking can be blocked. In a fearful tension with the teacher, a child can learn from a purely biological point of view more poorly than in an affectionate, emotionally pleasant learning environment.

To make matters worse, the next time I call it up, the previous failure intensifies the new fearful situation. It is, as it were, a pre-damaged memory: When you call it up again, not only the information that the student is supposed to prove is called up. The fear experienced in the previous interrogation situation, which blocks thinking, is also called up. Conversely: through a socially pleasant, fear-free learning situation, fewer stress hormones are released. The nerve currents are passed on through the synapses and enable thinking and learning. The brain's switch connections work particularly well when the joy is also remembered. This is where the nervous switch connections in the brain can conduct themselves well.

“This is how it has to be when you are run over by a car: As if crashed into the street, your eyes clouded

Alfred Andersch describes his fear of school in the autobiographical story "The father of a murderer".

“The father of a murderer” was the director of the Wittelsbacher Gymnasium in Munich. He is the father of Heinrich Himmler, who as SS Reichsführer built up the terror system of the concentration camps and organized the extermination of the Jews during the National Socialist dictatorship. Alfred Andersch, "an untalented high school student", tells how he was confused in 1928 when the director of the Humanist High School called on him during a visitation.

"Well, Kien, how about your Greek?" He put the emphasis on the word "yours." - Out of the question, thought Franz. It couldn't be. But then immediately: it took place. It takes place. The rex will test me in Greek. Lord God sacrament. Lord of Heaven sacrament. An accident. An accident has happened. This is how it has to be when you are run over by a car. Something iron knocks you unexpectedly, smashes you into the street. "Sit down again, I'd rather take someone else!" This sentence would not be uttered, it was just a mad hope, quickly flickered after Franz got up ... He knew that when asked what his Greek was like, he did not have to answer, or even answer, he If nothing, nothing at all, could have answered her, he was so dazed at that moment by the unheard-of that fell over him like a veil, he really felt his eyes to be cloudy, his field of vision narrowed, he hardly noticed how the gleeful faces of those around turned on him.

Alfred Andersch experienced being called as a “misfortune”: like being “run over by a car” and “thrown onto the street”. The situation was anything but thought-provoking: the adolescent was “dazed”, a “veil fell over him”; his eyes were "clouded", his "field of vision narrowed". Not all call-up situations are so dramatic, but they are definitely learning-disruptive because the children come under pressure that can block them from thinking. That is why pedagogically oriented teachers refrain from unexpectedly calling on students. You will discover that the children's willingness to cooperate is not diminishing, but rather growing; because the learning situation becomes less fearful, especially since the insecure children are encouraged to participate. It would be helpful if students, teachers and parents could come to an understanding in joint discussions about these stressful everyday situations.

How can students, teachers and parents avoid interfering with learning?

There are few teachers who act out their superiority through sudden calls and who deliberately embarrass their students.But there are many who do not consider what it means for the individual child to be embarrassed. And there are too many parents who accept it when their children are exposed to such unnecessary fearful situations. That is why joint discussions help to understand each other and to free the children from the pressure of fear.

  • Students should be their teachers notifyhow they fare in the query situation. Whether they feel scared, whether they are blocking the sudden being called up in their thinking, whether it is okay for them to be called up without being asked ...

  • Parents, teachers interested how the students perceive the class atmosphere with regard to the question and answer, what they would like to have different and what they can contribute to it themselves. They listen when the young people describe the calling from their point of view.

  • The mood when unexpected calls are made can be a worthwhile essay topic for children and teachers: Fear in school - Joy in school - A classroom situation that I was embarrassed about - At that time the teacher helped me - I felt I was being treated unfairly - A Teacher I'm afraid of ... These are subjects that students have something to say about. They learn to express what moves them, to write what they would like to have differently, they are encouraged to think about themselves and others and to express their personal thoughts appropriately.

  • In Class discussions it becomes clear how differently young people react to the same situation. This awakens understanding for the others in those involved.

  • The teacher in one personal conversation ask not to be called. In the immediate vicinity, both perceive each other better. Together you can consider which fear-free ways there are to make oral grades, for example by voluntary reporting.

  • Schoolchildren should know that it is unfavorable in terms of learning psychologySuddenly calling up children. Not only because it is scary, but also because less learning is done when students are placed in an unsafe situation.

  • The young people should be teachers who Not Calling up unexpectedly, saying how much they prefer it if they can contact you. It is easier for them to notice because they don't have to be afraid.

  • The topic is so significant for many students - at least for the more fearful and sensitive ones - that parents, teachers and students should discuss it together - for example on one Parents-teacher-student evening, which is about discussing with one another how children can learn better and achieve more.

But what if the school regulations require “oral evidence of performance”? - "Query" is not required

Many students and parents, even some teachers, believe that school regulations require that children be questioned in the widespread manner. However, only “oral performance records” are required. How Teachers demand this is their educational responsibility: They can have lessons prepared, enable short presentations, evaluate special knowledge, include voluntary services, receive reports on domestic work - for example, from sources such as the Internet, have their own experience reports. There are teachers who agree with the students a certain order in which the individual children are asked to show their knowledge orally. Others rely solely on the young people's voluntary participation.

“I don't waste my precious class time questioning,” says a high school teacher. The class doesn't learn anything if a student doesn't know anything; anxious children only learn to be anxious about this situation. I have had good experiences with encouraging students to contact me as often as possible. They know that no child is embarrassed, but that it can make up for a failure. ”- A teacher says:“ I do not believe in anything at all about the terrifying questions, questions, calculations on the blackboard, suddenly taking on; it spoils my class atmosphere. After all, I want to be a teacher and not a scare-monger. ”- A colleague:“ In English class I encourage my students to report a lot, wrong answers don't count, they are corrected. I speak to the shy ones personally, they should give me a sign if they think they dare. "

These teachers felt that the best educational solution would be to abolish grades. The PISA study made it clear: the countries in which the students performed well include those in which there are no numerical grades up to the 10th grade. This is easy to justify in terms of learning psychology: the students are given detailed assessments full perceived, they experience exactly their strengths and are carefully instructed to overcome weaknesses; it will be the individual Learning progress is measured, the fear of grades that disrupts learning is eliminated - that increases performance.

Do not call unexpectedly: pedagogical tact is imperative

Making the inquiry practice not frightening but encouraging is also a question of the pedagogical tact: the teacher behaves considerately towards the students, avoids hurting them with words or actions, exposing them or getting too close to them. With tactful teachers, children can be sure that they will never be laughed at or embarrassed. Grades and mistakes are not made public, student work is carefully corrected and not devalued. Teachers with a human tact avoid pointing out weaknesses in young people and offending children with irony or ridicule. Error-friendliness in the classroom is also a question of the pedagogical rhythm, but also the teaching principle: learning from mistakes instead of constantly judging or judging the learners. Being in a mindful relationship not only helps the children but also improves the job satisfaction of teachers. Pedagogical tact assumes the ability to empathize with children and young people. Teachers not only show themselves to be accessible to what students bring to them, but also notice on their own when encouragement or help is needed. For example, you not only perceive the unsuccessful performance, but also the mood that goes along with it in the student. You put yourself in the child's or young person's shoes and try to see difficult situations from him as well. In conflict situations, they never endanger the relationship with the student in the long term.

Protect children from embarrassment

It is the fear of being embarrassed that makes the sudden call so tense. The fear of having to expose oneself publicly is not an "isolated case". A study commissioned by the Baden Württemberg Ministry of Culture showed that more than half of the students - 58 percent - know teachers who embarrass their students in front of the class. Almost one in four - 23.2 percent - has been deeply injured by one of their teachers.

Nine-year-old Martin always got wet when he had to do maths on the blackboard. Weeping, he tells his mother how he stands in front of the class and is afraid of being embarrassed. Then he could no longer think. The mother was afraid to talk to the teacher, but then she went to the school consultation with Martin. She told the teacher what was bothering Martin and her. The friendly teacher was surprised that Martin was afraid to do math on the blackboard. She was sorry to embarrass him. So she agreed with the boy that he no longer had to go to the board. After this conversation, Martin no longer came home with his pants wet. It was the healing power of the facing relationship that made his symptom go away and bolstered his courage.

Encouraging instead of frightening, Albert Einstein writes: “The worst thing is when the school works with fear, coercion and artificial authority. Such treatment destroys the healthy attitude towards life, the sincerity and the self-confidence of the student. It creates the submissive subject. It is easy to keep the school free from this worst of all evils: you give the teacher as few coercive measures as possible. Then the only source of the students' respect for the teacher is his human and intellectual qualities. "

Literature used:

1) Alfred Andersch: The father of a murderer. Story (1980, Diogenes)

2) German PISA consortium: PISA 2000

3) Albert Einstein: Times of amazement. Ed .: Harald Schützeichel (1993 Herder Spectrum)

4) Kurt Singer: The student's dignity can be touched. From everyday life in our schools and how we can change it (1998, rororo paperback)

5) Kurt Singer: When school makes you sick. How does it make you healthy and ready to learn? (2000, Beltz Paperback)

6) Kurt Singer: Dare to show moral courage. How to Learn to Interfere (2003, Ernst Reinhardt Verlag)

7) Süddeutsche Zeitung, September 3, 2001: The Streiflicht

8) Frederic Vester: thinking, learning, forgetting. What goes on in our head, how does the brain learn, and when does it let us down? (1975, DVA)