I take Literature (in English) in school, and it’s supposed to be one of the more flexible subjects in our education system. At this point, we’re studying the poem The Way Things Are by Roger McGough, and that got me thinking about creativity—but that’s a separate story altogether. We’re pretty much free to write whatever we want to for our answers, as long as we’re able to substantiate them with evidence from the text. Our classes are discussion-based, and we are expected to contribute our opinion on the subject being discussed.
But from the start, in the first few classes, something was already amiss. There was a certain dread about the classes, for they weren’t as riveting as I’d expected them to be. Somehow, they lacked substance. We grazed passed the texts, never fully delving into them. And when the discussions went off tangent, I would sit in class and zone out. As I usually do. Which is bad, especially if it’s Literature.
The problem with subjects like Literature is that there is little room for bullshit. Because with Literature, if the teacher doesn’t actually know what she’s supposed to be teaching her students, it’s going to be exceptionally obvious that she is, essentially, unqualified. Literature is always open to interpretation and you can have a myriad of opinions of the work you’re studying and all of them can never be wrong. They might be weaker opinions, but hardly are they W.R.O.N.G. This characteristic in itself acts as a shaft, because an “interpretation” could be a whimsical fallacy, really.
That’s why students need teachers: functional ones, at least. Although students are capable of forming their own opinions, for Literature (and all other subjects for that matter), they do need to be guided by a teacher. To a certain extent, teachers do help students to form their own opinions—at least the ideal teachers do—they gear them in the right way, instead of telling them what their opinions should be. But the most important thing about teachers is that they help us put labels on our opinions and our ideas. From our teachers, we learn the technicalities of things, and our mesh of opinions and ideas becomes elucidated.
And with Literature, it’s a subject that is so easy to hate. I lost it for awhile because it was really frustrating, getting 70s when I knew that I could do better. But I wasn’t being told what was wrong. I was just: wrong.
Making a student lose interest in a subject is one of the worst things a teacher can do. I think a lot of teachers cause their students to become disinterested in what they’re studying, and I don’t think they realise the gravity of what they’re doing.
salamanda has now found a much better Literature teacher.
Image taken from here