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Massage Today
July, 2005, Vol. 05, Issue 07

The Queen of Mean

By Gail Frei, LMT, NCTMB Tiffany Field, PhD

It happened in my high school creative writing class. I had turned in a paper I knew I'd put little effort into. Why bother? I already had an A for the class. With summer around the corner, my focus was more on playing than paper writing.

The next week, my teacher, Ms. Santoro, handed back our papers. As she slid mine across the desk, she leaned in for my ears only and whispered, "I wept when I read this. You are capable of so much more."

BUSTED! Did I think Ms. Santoro was mean? You bet! Did that diminish her as my teacher? Hardly! In a strange way, I respected the fact that she refused to let me slide by with shoddy work. Ms. Santoro expected excellence from her students. By holding me to that standard, she honored my potential even as she humiliated my performance.

While I don't recommend Ms. Santoro's approach, I am an advocate of strict standards and expect excellence from students. But how can we teachers hold our students to high standards without wearing the tiara of "The Queen of Mean" (Ms. Santoro's nickname)?

In his book, The Courage To Teach, Parker J. Palmer suggests facilitating "a classroom in which teachers and students alike are focused on a great thing, a classroom in which the best features of teacher- and student-centered education are merged and transcended by putting not teacher, not student, but subject at the center of our attention."

The subject we must put "at the center of our attention" is not simply massage. To elevate massage to "the great thing" that commands our attention, we as teachers must imbue our subject with our own passion for and pride in our profession! Professional enthusiasm must share center stage with our commitment to our students' success in this new career. Thus, both teacher and students are held accountable to standards that support the professional practice of massage and the highest purpose it serves: quality client care.

The methods and techniques each teacher uses will vary, for as Palmer states, "good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher." The bottom line, though, is that we lead by our own example of professionalism. I began my career in education as a Montessori preschool teacher. What attracted me to that philosophy was its refusal to use a system of external rewards and punishments to motivate children. Maria Montessori believed that even at the young age of three, students were self-motivated to learn. Yet too many teachers have lost this belief in their adult students! How can it be restored? By using the classroom as a microcosm of a successful massage practice.

I will use dress code as an example, although this approach applies to attendance, punctuality, participation, or any other issue of classroom discipline. Many students balk at the idea of a dress code. Some school administrators go along with this and abandon set standards in favor of allowing students to use common sense in their attire. Sadly, this has only served to prove true my mother's saying that "common sense is not so common."

However, if the school sets a standard of what is acceptable in the classroom based on what will best support the students' success in the profession, a common ground can be reached. I believe our students want to succeed and have a sincere desire to serve their clients.

Outrageous outfits, visible body piercings, tattoos, etc., are a turn-off to a large segment of the population. Students who insist on such adornments cut themselves off from the very clients who will pay for their services. They sabotage their own success. By allowing this in our classrooms, we are, in effect, co-saboteurs, enabling our students to fail. As teachers, we must not be afraid to use our authority to empower our students to succeed in the real world!

Next time you excuse a student for poor performance, ask yourself if you are truly honoring his/her potential for success.


Gail Frei has 20 years of experience as an educator and has specialized in massage education since 1994, working as an instructor and program supervisor. She offers consulting services for schools desiring to set standards of excellence, and is currently working on a book for massage teachers.

 

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