On (Turkish?) teaching tactics: Roses grow where a teacher hits? Hocanın vurduğu yerde gül biter

Cape Cod Tea Rose Pale Pink

A pale pink tea rose from my Granny's garden...a much nicer image than the Turkish proverb brings to mind...

Lately, dear readers, when I am not in the midst of a TSA “special” line, I have written much about the fact that I have been grading papers – a lot of papers.

As you may have gathered, it is a process I don’t love that much anymore. The heady and idealistic days of the joy of providing feedback have shifted into foggy, dark nights of a crumpled forehead and a pounding headache.

Hacivad Bey, the learned elder puppet statesman, reminds me to get back in touch with this passionate teacher side of me – that burnout nears if I embrace the pounding headache. I am too tired to respond, really. Karagöz is adamant that I should instill the practice of beating my students – and this student in particular – in order for her/him to regain his/her sense and sense of respect for me. I sigh.

And in part, that crumpling-brow-furrowed-foggy-mind with the grading is present because of the significant push-back I get from my students on a regular basis. As in, sometimes quite “in-your-face” and over the top push-back. As in, last week I had to ask a student to leave the classroom due to her/his disrespect. The issue that led this student over the edge was a test – or rather – the idea of having to take one.

Kenne, the Karagöz puppet best known as the Queen of Manners and Ladylike Behavior Even in the Classroom faints at the mention of this experience of mine. She awakes upon the cacophonous fanning of the chorus of little dancing ladies, who are all waving their rose-scented handkerchiefs over her in a hullaballoo of tissue-fabric-fed-frenzy akin to a fan…and she says “a lady has no place teaching this in the classroom, you should be at home with your husband. Why work in conditions such as this?”

I have a reputation for being a demanding professor – expecting the best possible work from my students – and yet at the same time doing my best to meet them toe to toe in order to support them along the way. For some, it is too much, I suppose, but I have my standards and feel strongly that our profession – a profession made up mostly of women – needs to be better at gate-keeping – but I digress.

Generally, my philosophy about teaching is summed up by Bertrand Russell‘s quote: “No [person] can be a good teacher unless he has feelings of warm affection toward his pupils and a genuine desire to impart to them what he believes to be of value.”

Perhaps this emblem of my teaching philosophy is why my reaction to today’s post’s title – a famous Turkish proverb about teachers hitting students for their own good and for the good of the learning process – left me a bit speechless when I saw it. I was googling around to relate my own thinking about teaching to potential Turkish perspectives on teaching, and found this one. I am sure that many pedagogical approaches worldwide are similar, but as this is a blog about Turkish-American life in great part, that’s where I am heading in my mind today. While I grew up hearing about the teachers that beat my grandfather and grandmother, with a ruler, on the palms of the hand (seems counter-productive to the writing effort, if you ask me), I was surprised when M. first told me of the French nuns who beat him for his messy papers as a child.

Of course, what those nuns apparently did not seem to care about was the fact that the messiness of the papers was related to M.’s metabolic disorder that causes him to sweat excessively on his hands (and feet), with rivulets of sweat pouring down his pen onto his paper…the poor tyke. As a result, we could not be more diametrically opposed, M. and I. I love-love-love school – and M. hate-hate-hates it. It’s not that he does not read, or reason, or engage in treks of intellectual curiosity, it’s just that he had a terrible time in school with those nuns and all of that sweat. There was no mercy, and the roses bloomed on M.’s hands.

While I will have little mercy in the way of upholding standards and expectations, I aim for the production of rose blooms of another sort.

Esma, the hippie puppet tells me “keep the faith in the face of burnout, m’lady!”

And I do.

This entry was posted in Academic hell, Cross-cultural learning moments, Visits from the Karagöz puppets and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to On (Turkish?) teaching tactics: Roses grow where a teacher hits? Hocanın vurduğu yerde gül biter

  1. Jack Scott says:

    We had corporal punishment at my school. I once was caned (can’t remember what for). Six of the best on the backside. All it taught me was to be more devious – hardly a skill to encourage! Liam went to a Catholic school. He remembers the nuns being complete b**ches.

  2. Alan says:

    Ahhh! Lord Russell of Liverpool – a truly great intellect, teacher, pacifist, socialist and atheist – a man I feel able to try and emulate in all but three of those categories. He was also very useful for discouraging Jehova’s Witnesses. I would agree to take, read and then discuss their book if they would do the same with mine. I would accept their bible and return with a copy of Bertrand Russell’s ‘Why I Am Not A Christian’ which was never accepted. I ended up with several bibles!
    He also wrote something in 1935 that is pertinent to you My Lady – ‘In Praise of Idleness’ 😀 which is more about freeing the body and mind to make time for contemplation and self. Would Newton have come up with the gravity thing if he hadn’t been lazing under an apple tree on a balmy afternoon? I don’t think so!

  3. Ay! The idea of being caned, just the wording, terrible! I agree with your assessment – and I know M. would agree with Liam! He didn’t last long in that French school and I am quite confident that is where the agent provocateur in him was born!

  4. LOL about your collection of bibles! I need to learn more about Lord Russell, did not realize he hailed from my Granny’s UK home base of Liverpool. As for “in praise of idleness” – I think that is next on my list. Life is coming a bit more in balance now!

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