Don't trust the system, trust the student
Empathy. That is the word that is used a lot of times in Simon Sinek’s book Leaders eat last: Why some teams pull together and others don’t. What does empathy mean then? The definition for empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another as they were your own.
But isn’t that what it is about when you belong to a team? We share our struggles and we share our victories. We want to lose and win together. With my own team I have felt that they don’t only see and feel my struggles, but they believe in me and support me to move forward. I feel that my team is genuinely happy for my success. That is an indicator that there really is trust. In some point it leads to learning and then to success.
There are some difficulties with empathy in the normal educational system where everything is knowledge- and evaluation-based. I have learnt some things about the regular educational system in the Netherlands since I was there studying a minor for 10 weeks. What I saw there was the fear of losing control, assessments, countless presentations and no trust in the students. I also learned that the highest score in grading that they have is planned in a way that nobody is supposed to achieve that.
I had this situation where my group was the last one to have a scheduled time with the teacher and we went overtime. So, we had a long time to wait and we started to create our own solutions on how we will proceed. When the teacher came, they apologized for being late, I said something that hurt the teacher’s feelings. I said: “It is totally okay, I think we actually did better without you.” Well, I could have maybe presented the idea in a slightly different way, maybe like saying “solving the problem by ourselves.” That was a little language barrier in the communication which I’ve tried to develop since. But I obviously hurt the teacher’s feelings based on her facial expression. Then we had a discussion what trust means. I asked if they trusted their students and the answer I got was pretty interesting. They said that there are students that can’t do it by themselves and that is why things need to be controlled. My question was if it’s really worth it to destroy the feeling of trust from the trustworthy students just because there are other kind of people? Where is the benefit?
This lack of trust and the lack of empathy are obvious barriers. They affect the students in a way that makes them lose motivation. The students don’t know any more why and who they are studying for. For themselves? Not really. For the grades? Probably. For the certificate? Yes. But not for really learning and applying that in to practice. They are not the center of the learning process. They are just users and objects of the teaching.
A lot of times I get asked about how our system in Proakatemia secures the level of learning and skills. Usually I ask how does the assessment system provide that? Since there is grading that has been defined by what is the perfect answer and how much you need to know to pass. If you hit the lowest level, does that somehow prove you’ve learned something? Honestly. No. It doesn’t. Of course there are different levels in learning and in skills but you can’t work as an entrepreneur if you don’t have any professional skills or don’t know how to teach yourselves new things. Nobody pays for job badly done. Not at least twice. But you will get a certificate even if your grades are the lowest, if you just passed. But the problem is that there is no passing an exam in the real world. There is no validation or sense of security.
I’ve noticed that I have certain values when it comes to the educational system and the consultancy that I provide in my projects to teachers or managers. I heard myself saying in one training session with some teachers, that I believe that every student has the right to believe in themselves in the educational system. Not depending on how well they fit the system.