Recently, I’ve been reading the dissertations of my friends with doctorates, and am posting my favorite parts.
This topic comes from my friend Alison’s paper.
She introduced me to the term “narcissistic 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.
Classrooms Dominated By Teacher Preference
When teachers choose a reading 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: we should not choose instructional strategies based on teacher comfort, but rather students’ 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. If you’re very very brave, ask your students if they think you have favorite/least-favorite students in the class. Have them write down who they think it is anonymously. You may be surprised how obvious your own preferences are!
Creating Student-Centered Classroom
If I were back in the classroom, here are some things I’d purposefully change to reduce my narcissistic-teaching patterns. Consider it an anti-narcissism-checklist:
- Are my walls lined with students’ work and 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 students? Or do I always fall back on the same techniques?
- Am I choosing books to read that I really 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?