The Rise of the Mollycoddled Teacher

Teaching is no gentle spin around the block. It’s a grueling, energy-sapping and often heart-breaking odyssey.

No doubt, it would be a whole lot easier if we could just teach instead of having to deal with barking parents, unexpected syllabus shifts, administrative obstacles, uphill grading, emotional roadblocks and all the newfangled pedagogical and technological ideas we need to pick up on the way.

All of this and somehow we still need to teach to the best of our abilities.

Yet somehow we make it work. Very often, it feels like we’re not going to, but we invariably cross the finish-line.

Learning is often just as difficult for many of our students. And it isn’t supposed to be easy. The adversity and multiple challenges they face on a daily basis teaches them determination – or what some are calling ‘grit’*.

So why is it that lately teachers are becoming so mollycoddled?

Afraid or unsure about using technology in the classroom? That’s ok. You just do what you’re comfortable with.Refuse to integrate a more personalized, child-centered approach? Not to worry. You do other things well. (Like setting good standardized tests and lecturing well.)Not up to speed on the latest in pedagogical or neurological research? No problem. We’ll email you a few things from time to time and perhaps send you on a training course once a year. If you feel like it, try to find out a few things online.We don’t want you to feel upset or overwhelmed or angry. We need your buy-in to make this work.

What’s going on here? Why are we suddenly so soft on teachers? Do we think they won’t manage if we raise our expectations – as if one more bundle will topple them off their bicycles altogether?

I honestly have no idea where this mollycoddling comes from. I do know that it’s dangerous to ‘protect’ teachers from new ideas and techniques in teaching – particularly if they’ve been road tested and have been found to be sound. It’s bad for our students, it’s bad for society more generally, and it’s bad for teachers themselves.

What do you think?


*In a future post I will be exploring the dangers of encouraging grit, but let’s leave it as it is for now.



One comment

  1. I am not a teacher, but I do appreciate what good teaching involves: empathy, discipline, recognizing and encouraging potential, patience, common sense, patience, being up to date, etc. etc. Not to mention actually knowing your teaching methodologies and content! Teachers do have a tough job, and good teachers will forever remain in the hearts of students (and probably parents as well)!

    About your mollycoddling: as a parent, what really, really irks me, is when teachers are praised and applauded in front of all the children for a production (drama, music, art, whatever) well done. It’s the children who should be especially applauded. Why is there a need to praise the teachers? Do they need encouragement, or do the kids need encouragement?


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