In Chapter 16 of The Skillful Teacher, Brookfield pinpoints the reason for students’ resistance to learning.
The one that stood out for me and I think it does for most new teachers too: we are guilty of being too passionate. We are drawn to teaching because we are passionate about what we do, when in reality we need to be passionate about teaching. Brookfield explains that being too passionate in our subject makes us blind to the difficulties that students experience that cause the resistance.
He also cautions that this passion can drive us to want to convert everyone, especially the “hardcore resistant students.” (215) When we don’t succeed in converting them, we feel incompetent as a teacher when they don’t believe. Teaching styles can become more preachy than organized. Students resist on the basis that the learning is “good for you” rather than justified. In Brookfield’s words, it comes across as “superficial. (216)
He goes on to list more reasons, some of which are repeat themes in the book and other new. A few examples are:
- Fear of the unknown
- Poor self-image as learners
- Poor teaching styles
- Irrelevance of learning activities
- Fear of looking foolish
- Lack of clarity
- Dislike of teachers
They are all valid reasons. And when dealing with resistant students, the reasons may be one or many. A bit of reflection and conversation with the students may reveal the reasons, but often it remains a mystery.