She introduced me to the term “narcistic pedagogy” which beautifully describes something we’ve probably all seen (and perhaps been guilty of):
Narcissistic pedagogy disproportionately centers on the needs of the teacher.
Dominated By Teacher Preference
When teachers choose a book because “they like it” or ignore an entire genre because “they don’t like it,” that’s narcissistic pedagogy. (I see sci-fi/fantasy discriminated against often – which lead to this big list!)
When teachers choose direct instruction every time because they’re comfortable with it – that’s narcissistic pedagogy. This is the main thrust of Alison’s work: there’s a danger of choosing instructional strategies based on teacher comfort rather than student needs.
The tendency to naturally like those who are similar to us is especially dangerous in classrooms. Alison writes:
When students fail to share admiration for the same things, or express loyalty to the narcissistic teacher, the teacher often becomes upset, disappointed and can result in the student falling out of favor.
Students pick up on this kind of favoritism surprisingly quickly.
Creating Student-Centered Classroom
If I were back in the classroom, here are some things I’d purposefully change (I certainly had some shamefully narcissistic patterns). Consider it an anti-narcissism-checklist:
- Am I lining my walls with students’ work and their interests or is the room themed to my own interests?
- Am I spending time informally chatting with (and listening to) students who have very different personalities and interests from my own?
- Am I using instructional strategies that I’m uncomfortable with, but are instructionally valuable for my kids? Or do I always fall back on the same techniques?
- Am I choosing books to read that I don’t like but some students love?
- Am I demanding classroom behavior that makes life easy for me – or am I setting up an environment that promotes student learning?