A fundamental pervasive concern of teachers is am I getting through to these students? Depending on the type of students you teach, the more delayed the gratification can be. To the point where I must reassure myself that gratification will happen in another 10 years’ time. I have worked with students who reject or are rejected from mainstream school and are often, although not always, from disadvantaged backgrounds. The most tangible compliment I received was “You ain’t actually a bad teacher Miss.” This can be hard on the psyche.
I think that our teacher trainees in Myanmar struggle with this question as the students still attend government school and the matriculation exam is still their focus. Our classes will not change the students from matriculation focused to international aid workers in a month. It is not realistic and moreover, I don’t feel that teachers should expect to have tangible gratitude and gratification from their students. It is a wonderful bonus and perk of the job. It is something that most teachers will cite as the reason they teach, but fundamentally, teachers need to believe in their own presence and sense of self as a vessel for engagement over and above the physical signs of learning that the students show. The most wayward difficult students may not pass their end of term test, they may still throw things at others, but they may also remember you as their teacher for the rest of their life and use you as a guide to make a decision which changes the course of their life without you ever knowing the first thing about it. Of course, I am not advocating for not teaching. Far from it, I believe that students in challenging situations need and deserve creative solutions. Of course, there are ample ways to tell that by and large students are focused and absorbing information.
I have often felt frustrated by my student’s inability to spell simple words or by their insistence in using the local speech dialect to write! However, by focusing on the can’t does and the won’t does of my class, am I overlooking the facts that students are coming to class, they greet me in the street when they see me and they, albeit reluctantly, write their name and the date on each piece of work that they now tuck into their folder without setting fire to the corners or each other? I think that as a teacher, we must consider the viewpoint of others and the impact that seemingly small acts can have on the future of another. Something as small as choosing to come to a class can mean that the student has broken down barriers facing them and their feelings towards education which they may have held since they stopped attending school at primary level. The fact that they feel comfortable enough to write their name on their work and not have others in the class laugh at their desire to do well might mean that they will now be able to apply for and get a promotion at work which they otherwise would have missed due to needing to act cool. The fact that students have had a teacher who is from a different state, speaks with a different dialect and teaches in a new way might mean that instead of fearing the other, those students are curious and want to engage with people unlike themselves in ways which benefit society at large. The far-reaching impact of kind, considerate and engaging teaching cannot be underestimated in my opinion. It is not the material which people remember when recalling their best or worst teacher, but rather the feeling that the teacher fostered in class and the expectations and equality of the classroom dynamic.
Director of Studies and Teacher Trainer
Keeping Students Interested
Students Taking Responsibility for Their Own Learning
Planning for Student Engagement
Showing Students We Care
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