2.On "authority"Clearly linked to the problems that vitiate the benefit which would, in an ideal world, accrue
to those who actively engage in educational programs, methods and techniques, is inescapably the
controversial issue of teacher authority. As a matter of fact, "authority" has been endowed
with various meanings yet remains elusive of any definition whatsoever. Some people associate it with
the teacher's elevated cognitive, intellectual and social status and his / her concomitant primacy over
the students, while others tend to connect it with such an unnerving feeling as arrogance and a
supercilious observance of rules and norms that are laid down by the teacher her / himself■and the
institution within which he / she is authorized to teach■and must be taken
at face value. It is with both connotations that we will be concerned.
2.1. The teacher's authority and its effects
There has always been a tendency, on the part of the teacher, to claim superiority over his
or her students and, consequently, to lose sight of his or her role in class. The teacher who evinces
these characteristics keeps on blaming the students for their aberrant behaviour and "unsatisfactory"
performance; he hardly ever bothers to make a probe of the students' cognitive, emotional and
psychological background. He is an arrogant automaton who asserts his authority over
his socially unauthorized, impotent and inferior students in a most undemocratic,
uncivilized way; an "educated" person who supposedly strives to inculcate values and ideals but who
is "conspicuous by her absence" when it comes to fostering feeling and creative thinking. No doubt,
the teacher is conditioned to function __ or rather malfunction
__ in this way but let us not become waylaid by further details as to the causes.
What could extenuate such behaviour, in any case?
This arrogant, unapproachable figure, with his lofty ideas and pompous language, is as often
as not a formidable barrier to language learning. Not only his personality and
his intellectual and linguistic abilities but also such paralinguistic features as facial expressions and
bodily position in the classroom may exert an immensely negative influence on the student's cognition
and affect. Experiments have proved that four bodily positions of the teacher, i.e. left
/right, front / back, elevated / non-elevated, and standing /
seated, have each been associated with a certain degree of social dominance. For example, a
teacher who, most of the time in class, is standing, elevated and occupies the foreground on the right
side, is perceived to be dominant.
The data indicated that 75% of the time the elevated person was perceived as dominant and
only 29% of the time the non-elevated person was considered so. Similarly 61% of the time the
standing person was perceived as dominant (Schwartz, Tesser and Powel, 1981: 47, cited in
Papaconstantinou, 1991: 64).