Who are my students?
To answer this one I had to answer the “who am I” aspect first.
Maybe there is some irony in this…”As I learnt how to teach, I learnt who I am.” Well, teaching developed my character .When I look back now I see how crucial it was that I had to know myself and work on my personality and attitude before I could start telling my students what to do and what not to do. Whether I liked it or not, I was their role model to a certain extent. What a responsibility I found this to be. I had to be on time for lessons. I had to mark and return work within a reasonable time. I had to do this. I had to do that. Thank God I am a punctuality freak. I had no issues at all with doing things on time. Another plus for me was that I am a self driven person, with the spirit of excellence and positive self-esteem. Why am I not a life coach? Giving it some serious consideration
Teaching them to believe in themselves
The majority of my students were children from rural and semi-rural areas, from a low to middle-income background. Having attended public schools, it was logical that many of them would be way below average in terms of English language proficiency. As such, many would feel uncomfortable speaking English and would resort to keeping quiet or speak only when asked questions. In one of the blogs I follow, a post about Korean students shed some very useful light on the issue of teaching English as a second language. I identified lots of similarities between my experiences as an English Language teacher and the experiences of this blogger. School is a big deal…English is a big deal. Maybe English is an even bigger deal. The usual reading and writing exercise that are part of the English language syllabus were not sufficient in this case. As a starting point, I had to teach my students the importance of self-esteem. As they shared short stories about themselves and had their classmates ask questions, they slowly began to relax while speaking English.
I treated my students with respect and encouraged them to believe in themselves, have a voice and feel free to share their thoughts with the rest of the class. It improved their performance. One of the challenges of being a teacher is showing you care. This post inspired me, How show I care .For me one of showing this was grooming students to develop a positive self-esteem, which came to show its benefits when someone said something that warranted some giggles. We laughed at one another’s mistakes and never took matters personally. There was lots of fun and hot tempers occasionally.
Learning who I am did not end with attitude and personality. Respect is earned and image is everything. Woo-hoo! It should be understood that I had just come from an environment where it did not really matter how I was dressed. I loved my shorts short. My micro mini-skirts were a priceless possession. I struggled with the professional code of dress for some time. It was a contentious topic for the young teachers, so let’s leave it for another day! Bottom line is eventually I got into the groove. The experience was getting bearable. My curiosity grew as I wondered “what’s next”.
Now to answer the question ‘who are my students’, I think this is a novel idea. Letters of advice from former students. Instead of learning about who they are when they have already left, I will try ask them to write anonymous letters to me, expressing their views about my teaching and interaction with them while we are still together.