Dear fellow teacher,
I’ve been meaning to start a journal about my experiences as a teacher, so I’ve started working on a blog, but as it isn’t quite ready yet, I’m going to use Facebook to share my thoughts for now, because I don’t want to miss any inspirational moments I get. So here it goes.
I don’t know if you know, but I’ve been living in Germany for 4 months and this have been the most enriching experience of my life. Back in Brazil I used to live in such a rush, running from one place to another, teaching one-to-one students in my private office, in-company, and even at their home, until late at night (I’m sure you know how this works). Life was so busy that I didn’t have time to hear my thoughts. Now, I’m teaching students online and I have much more time to reflect upon my practice and I’m constantly looking for ways to become a better teacher to help my students reach their learning goals. So, this morning, when I least expected it, a bit of reflection came to my mind and I couldn’t ignore it, so this is what this first journal entry is about. I’ll contextualize it a bit, so keep reading, I promise it will all make sense in the end.
I hate ironing, yeah, well, who doesn’t? Back in Brazil I hardly ever did it, but here in Germany, one doesn’t have a housekeeper, so all the housework is done by my husband and I. Luckily he is very helpful and does it much better than I. But this morning, I decided to iron some of my own clothes and offered to iron some of his, and he handed me some shirts, T-shirts and a pair of jeans. He kindly advised me I didn’t actually need to iron any of clothes I didn’t want to and that he would do the rest of it, had I decided not to do them all. Since we’ve been here, our clothes haven’t been quite very well ironed, for some reason the dryer gets clothes so crumpled it’s nearly impossible to get them straight again. We needed to find a solution for that, so yesterday I went to the supermarket near my house and bought one of those sprays to help make ironing easier. So this morning, I decided to give it a try and, fortunately, it worked!
The thing is, I started ironing some of the clothes, and I could literally see the difference. One spray and the task was much easier! So I kept going, and going (while watching a series on Netflix, of course) and when I realized, I had finished ironing them all! I was honestly surprised at myself, because everyone who knows me is well aware that I loathe housework, but yet, I did it. No complaint, no sweat. I’m a 100% sure that If I hadn’t seen the good results, I would have quit right after the second piece of clothing.
And funnily enough, that made me think about my students, about why some of them thrive in learning the language and why some simply can’t seem to fully commit to their learning goals. I know you may be wondering, what could that possibly have to do with teaching and learning? Well, here is what I concluded: when you see results, when you realize your efforts are taking you somewhere, when you see the energy you apply to something become a real result, you go all the way. For me, the feedback I got from seeing our clothes perfectly ironed (not because of my skills, believe me), this concrete immediate response made me feel like it was worth doing it, so I didn’t quit until I was done. Thinking about my students, I could reinforce the idea that they also need to constantly feel the same way. I know sometimes we may get disappointed at their little effort to improve, but you know what, acknowledging that will do nothing good for them, or for your relationship with them. So my suggestion is, find something positive to compliment your student for, give them constant encouraging feedback, and they will certainly feel more motivated to keep attending classes, doing homework and studying by themselves, because they will be able to truly see that their efforts (even if they are small ones) are actually bringing them valuable results in the short term, which will make a real difference for them to reach their ultimate learning goals. This will provide them with the endurance they need to keep going, until they are done. So next week, when I see my students again, I will keep in mind my ‘ironing adventure’ and I’ll try to be a more reassuring teacher for them, because they deserve it!
Well, I hope you have enjoyed my experience and if you too, have experienced a sudden moment of reflection like this one, how about sharing it here? The more we share, the more we learn and the better our classes will become.
See you next time!