ISSUE-127

Some people believe that the most important qualities of an effective teacher are understanding and empathy. Others believe that it is more important for teachers to be rigorous and demanding in their expectations for students.


Write a response in which you discuss which view more closely aligns with your own position and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should address both of the views presented.


Education has been long been one of the centers of gravity in the discussion of societal issues. One question related to education asks what the most important quality of an effective teacher is. There are two schools of thoughts: the first claims that to be effective, teachers must be able to understand and feel empathy for their students, while the second states that the more important qualities of an effective teacher are rigorous and demanding in his or her expectation for students. The latter view, in my opinion, more closely aligns with my own position on this issue. That is, while it is certainly important for teachers to possess qualities like understanding and empathy, being able to be rigorous and demanding are the more important qualities to be an effective teacher.


To begin, admittedly teachers should learn to understand their students and be able to feel for them, for the reason that a child’s development in school is not only intellectual and physical but also mental. If the teacher ignores the understanding and empathy for students, they could get lost and may not be able to follow the correct path. For example, in recent decades we have seen a number of tragic cases of school shooting committed by disgruntled students. Subsequent investigations revealed that such students do not feel welcomed at school and abandoned by their peers as well as their teachers. Had those teachers learnt to give the troubled students sufficient attention and cares, they would much less likely to commit the crime. Therefore, since one of teachers’ responsibility is to promote students’ mental health, qualities such as understanding and empathy are certainly important for teachers.


However, while it is important for teachers to learn to understand the students, it is actually more important for them to be rigorous and demanding in the expectation of the students. Such expectations are not only concerning academic performance, but also related to becoming an independent individual capable of facing adversities. For one, regarding the expectations on academic performance, I feel the urge to point out that the practical purpose of education is to select talents from the young for the society. An example is that almost in every culture education is associated with certain forms of examination. While some may see exams as a mere way to test the performance of students, in reality they serve as a differentiating tool to classify different levels of learners. As a result, on an individual level, to survive in future society it is necessary to stand out in the process of education. Teachers, on the other hand, have the responsibility to help identify talents and allow them to receive high-quality education. To fulfill this responsibility, it becomes apparent that teachers must set rigorous expectations for the students.


Furthermore, beyond the simple purpose of identifying talents, educators also have the responsibility to prepare the younger generation for embracing the challenges of the society. Compared to the ivory tower of campus, the society is a much harsher place. For instance, after the announcement of the 2016 Presidential Election result, many students who support Hilary Clinton cannot accept the fact that Donald J Trump had just won the election. Many of them had mental meltdown and just refused to believe in reality. Obviously simple denial won’t change the reality; what those students should do instead is to learn to face the challenges and adversities and eventually fight for change. Such an attitude cannot be gained unless teachers set up demanding expectations for the students. In fact, critics attribute the mental weakness of many of those aforementioned students to the lax style of teaching they receive in school, which essentially becomes a greenhouse that protects the students from the adversities in life.


To sum up, I acknowledge that teachers should possess qualities such as understanding and empathy, but it is more important for them to be rigorous and demanding in order to become effective.

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