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Authority—the Elements of Teaching 4.2

Mastery does not mean that a teacher knows so much about a subject that there is nothing further to learn about it, for learning is always an endless journey. Instead, mastery should mean that good teachers are those who have made good progress in that journey, are willing to retrace their steps along it, and thus can help those behind them find their own way on the same path.


Authority is a matter of carriage and conduct as well as knowledge. It springs as much from bearing as from study and reflection. Teachers may gain respect, for instance, by dress and speech-by, say, greater care of attire and greater accuracy of expression. Yet more important in establishing authority are those attributes of personal character and citizenship-like dignity and civility, compassion and fairness-by which students may be better able to guide themselves. Teachers must try to represent and exhibit those qualities which they want their students to develop (and which their students are aware they are expected to develop). Finally, a teacher's authority, because it is also a manifestation of character, grows from knowledge of and confidence in one's self.As a teacher learns to reach inward for the wisdom of which knowledge and experience are the essential elements, then authority becomes natural and irresistible to students.


Authority is acquired and accumulated. It is rarely innate. In this regard, the creation and preservation of authority is much like the mastery of knowledge: it calls for unremitting effort. Teachers gain authority in the classroom through practice and experience, by thinking hard about authority's nature and use, by experimentation, and above all by their advancing self-knowledge. Although this process of learning extends over a long period, teachers must lose no chance to possess and deserve authority; they must strive to establish it immediately, from the first moment of a class, and to evince those qualities of character that make students look to them for understanding and guidance. And while young or fledgling teachers should not be expected to possess the authority of seasoned instructors, even they must be able to indicate from the first that they know how to lead their students so that it is exciting and rewarding to follow them. Fortunately, they often have the enthusiasm and energy that age may lack, and those qualities can compensate for an initial insufficiency of professional experience and maturity.

Authority encourages aspiration in students. Authority must have direction; it must be linked to purpose; it does not exist for itself. A teacher's authority must be devoted to helping students strengthen their accustomed capacities and reach beyond their habitual ways. A teacher's dedication must not be directed only to students' understanding of the world, nor just to the deepening of their moral life. Authority in a teacher creates the desire in students to surpass themselves; and this desire can endure far beyond the classroom as students develop the habit of trying always to "stretch" -be it in their accumulation of knowledge, in their contributions to public life, or in their moral sensibility. Great teachers and great schools are distinguished in large part from average teachers and average schools by the strength and longevity of ambition they instill in their students.

Authority requires some formal distance between teachers and students. Because 1.teachers' authority grows from the implicit acknowledgement of their greater knowledge of a subject and deeper understanding of their students' welfarethan is possessed by the students themselves, teachers are usually better able to assist their students in gaining more knowledge and attaining greater maturity than are the students' friends and contemporaries. However deeply committed to students' welfare teachers must be, one of the quickest ways for teachers to dissipate their authority is to act as their students' "pals." Popularity is not authority, nor is teaching a popularity contest. Authority stems in part from students' understanding that 2.a teacher maintains strict impartiality among them and ostensibly has no favorites. In that way the teacher's awarding of grades and otherwise assessing students' performance and growth are accepted by students as legitimate.


Teachers may be students' instructors, advisers, confessors, audiences, cheerleaders, even idols; such mentors may, indeed should, show compassion and empathy, reveal the pleasures of sharing learning with younger people, and extend warmth and friendly affection. But teachers should never be students' close friends or companions, never their intimates. Teachers must act as adults, not youths; this requires that teachers bear themselves as knowing more, as being better prepared to understand what is best for their students' welfare, and as possessing the equanimity and serenity that most young people have not yet acquired. And because they must be prepared to evaluate, grade, direct, reprove, and sometimes discipline their students, they must have the authority to stand back and be objective in their estimation of each student's efforts and achievements while not losing their students' respect for their authority to do so.


Authority emerges from an acknowledged difference in the status of teacher and student. Distance, detachment, and impartiality are meant to maintain what some find difficult to accept but which nevertheless remains a major source of authorityan acknowledged superiority in a teacher's status. That superior status, however, does not owe itself to teachers' responsibilities for grading their students or to their right to correct students. Rather, that status is gained due to teachers' superiority of knowledge and greater experience.Teachers are not necessarily superior people, nor are they expected to have superior athletic skills, or to be better spouses, or to have greater insight into national affairs than their students. They are, however, expected to know more. Greater knowledge of a subject and greater skill in conveying it are what distinguishes teachers not only from students but from parents and school board members and other professionals.


While both a larger store of knowledge and better behavior imply superiority, in fact they necessitate humility; they manifestthemselves indirectly. Teachers who can lead their classes to experience pleasure in, for example, understanding the juncture of religion, engineering, and aesthetics in the construction of a Gothic cathedral gain authority through this process of making learning satisfying. Teachers who can take potentially confrontational classroom situations and lead their students instead to listen to their classmates' radically different views and respond with patient consideration will be recognized by their students for their higher sense of fairness.

1.Yet paradoxically, a teacher can also gain authority by denying it-that is, by acknowledging ignorance. The simple "I don't know, and I wish I did," or "I can't answer that question, and I wish I could" are clarifying through their direct honesty -and imply a yearning to know. Mastery of a subject neither requires nor implies omniscience. 2.Admitting ignorance may risk both reducing the precious distance between teacher and students and exposing to question the teacher's superiority of learning and experience. Yet by confessing ignorance, a teacher creates an opportunity to explore a subject further, to reach for or ask a student to reach for a book that will provide the answer, to discuss with students how the answer might be found, or to design an assignment by which students singly or collectively can try to find out. Thus3. "I don't know" becomes "Let's look it up" (a lesson in research) or "Let's find out together" (a lesson in experiment and cooperation). In these ways, knowledge has a chance to emerge from ignorance, truth from error, method from confusion, and understanding from puzzlement.


We say that ethical actions, character, and imagination are basic elements of teaching. Authority, we say, is gained. Of all the qualities of great teachers, only authority must be earned; it is the only quality dependent upon others' estimation of us and of the qualities of mind and character that we possess as teachers. Yet authority's very dependence upon the views of those we teach gives it its peculiar strength once earned, for it embraces students as accessories in its existence, placing upon them responsibilities for the atmosphere in which their own learning takes place. This mutuality of responsibility for its existence confers distinctiveness on authority and makes it, of all the elements of teaching, both the most fragile and, once possessed, the most commanding. No other requires greater care in its creation; no other opens greater doors to learning in its use.

我们都说 ethical actions, character, and imagination 是教学的基础。但是只有权威是需要获得的。在好老师的所有品质中,只有权威必须自己争取。它是唯一一个依赖于其他人对我们和对我们思想和品格的评估的品质。

Authority—the Elements of Teaching 4.2
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