Challenge Your Teachers

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I have a few flaws, as does any man. I don’t like being challenged or confronted, especially not by a student. I am hardly unique in this regard. Challenges, however, are how we solidify our understanding of our beliefs and maybe burn off some dead wood in what we say and do. Challenges are necessary for growth and improvement. As a teacher, I love challenging my students. But if you, the student, challenge me, and question what I am trying to teach you, I find it quite irksome. If the parent challenges me, as is more often the case, I’m most agitated.

            This, as I said before, is a glaring flaw. While my 2 decades of studying the instrument and the last decade of spending countless hours contemplating violin technique and how to appropriately structure someone’s musical journey as a violinist from start to finish do provide me a certain level of authority, we must be reminded that an argument from authority is technically a logical fallacy. The only time an argument from authority is valid in any way is if both the person making the argument and the person receiving the argument respect the authority that is invoked. Whether you like it or not, you must prove your authority to the student and his parents. You must be able to reason out everything you teach.

            The argument from authority can be reached, however, with time. If the result of your lessons become a defense of your teaching, the more you will gain an argument from authority. You cannot, however, assume that because of your experience and knowledge you can pull the old parental “because I say so.” You owe it to your students to provide reasoning for something that, at the time, seems either impractical or uncomfortable. This can be intensely vexing, especially when a student goes full Socratic method and asks “why?” for every answer you give. It is still your job to know and to answer.

            For students who might be reading this: Challenge your teachers. While chose to write about the annoyance, though inappropriate, of challenges from my students, it doesn’t happen that often. In fact, it has only happened to me twice. Both times vexed me, but that attitude is part of the problem. Students must feel free to challenge their teachers.

            The student teacher dynamic is a weird one. The teacher is in a position of authority over the student. However, the student has contracted the teacher which, in any other field, would give the student authority. Who is the real boss?

            It’s a mix. The most overt authority goes to the teacher. The student is there to learn, which is best accomplished if the teacher is given a certain amount of executive control. However, if the teacher is failing in his objective, the student has the right to end the contract with the teacher. In this way the student possesses authority. It is the student’s right to challenge what the teacher says or does in order to fully understand what is taught.

            I must get over being challenged. On the outside I’ve done fine. I’ve explained everything to its full extent and made the persons in question satisfied. Inside, however, I hate it. Yet I should welcome it, and so should you. What better opportunity to solidify your knowledge and authority?

Tobiah MurphyComment