“Well, No One’s Complained”
As I walk the halls during testing week I always peek into classrooms to make sure the lights are on. Far too often I’ve encountered teachers who leave the lights off while students are taking exams. I’m really not sure why; maybe their resentment at having to proctor an exam leads them to prioritize their own comfort over that of the students?
When I see that the lights are off, I’ll step in, flip all the lights on, make eye contact with the proctor, and loudly say “The lights need to be on during testing”. Most of the time the proctor quickly averts their eyes, knowing they were in the wrong and embarrassed they’ve been called out. But one time a teacher, seemingly offended, responded “Well, no one’s complained.” I’ve heard a similar defense from teachers flouting school-wide homework and testing policies: “I give tests on whatever day I want. The students don’t complain. It’s fine.”
But there are lots of reasons a student might not complain when a teacher doesn’t follow the rules. A student may not want to publicly confess to poor eyesight in demanding that a teacher turn the lights on; a student who already has two tests on Friday may not want to risk upsetting classmates who would be happy if the teacher breaks the rules and gives them a quiz that day; a student may not want to risk possible retribution from a teacher by pointing out they aren’t following school policy when it comes to assigning homework.
Students exist on the wrong side of a perpetual imbalance of power in the classroom. Challenging authority is especially difficult under such circumstances, and in cases like this, students shouldn’t have to. We adopt rules and policies to protect student interests precisely because we know that young students aren’t always able to advocate for themselves. It shouldn’t be a student’s responsibility to make sure teachers follow the rules. It’s our responsibility, and our job, to follow them, even if we think no one will complain if we don’t.