What my students taught me …

It is a misconception that teachers are in the best position to teach and guide their students because they seem to ‘know-it-all’. Truth is, teachers learn as much as they teach. My students taught me a lot of things, namely, how to manage them – their mood swings, their behaviour, their attitude towards studies and their learning styles.

I am thankful that God has led me to teaching – something I never thought I would be doing in my life. But after I’ve discovered that I am ADHD, I started researching on the types of jobs/career that would suit my personality and teaching is one of them! God certainly knows me best!

Children, like adults, want to be understood. Most parents and teachers (especially Asian) have the tendency to exert authority over children on the pretext that they know what is best for them. I’ve discovered along my teaching career that the best person who knows what they have learned and what they want to learn, is the child him/herself. I put myself in their shoes and try to think from their perspective – what’s going on in their head? Why are they bored? What upsets them? What interests them?

As a teacher, my job is not just teaching. I am facilitating and directing their thoughts. So I allow them the freedom to express themselves and I guided them to reflect on what they’ve learned.

My students also taught me that they are capable of thinking for themselves and that I ought to trust them. I need to trust and respect their decisions. Don’t we all want someone to trust and respect us? Likewise for children, they too want to be trusted and respected. I respect their learning styles. I respect the choice of words used in their essays. I respect their creativity and I hone them by giving them proper guidance and directions. I respect their thoughts expressed. Hence, teaching is about guiding students towards learning beyond their textbooks. It’s about cultivating their curiosity to continue researching on the topic/s learned for the day.

My students taught me that I needed more than just teaching, to know and understand their feelings and psychology. I need to practice the art of counseling children. I have had children with bad mood swings, who were rebellious and who had been bullied by their classmates. How they feel on that day affects their learning  – either it cripples their ability to learn or it excites or motivates them to learn. I’ve learned that I need to manage their emotions first, before I could even get them to read a passage or complete a worksheet. I’ve learned that children love it when we talk to them heart-to-heart. They love to share their feelings with you when they get the opportunity to do so. So I’ve learned that when they do, they are trusting me with their problems and I need to respect that. There’s a saying that goes ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’. But I’ll say, ‘discipline the child with kind and loving words and they will go a long way’. As a typical Chinese who grew up under the rod, I used to have the misconception that the rod is the best tool to discipline a child. But then I’ve learned that sometimes, we don’t have to resort to the rod to get our message across. It makes them even more afraid to open themselves up to you. It makes them angry and it hurts them. It makes them despise you all the more. As the bible verse states: Colossians 3:21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.

Therefore, I’ve learned that I need to observe their behaviour and patiently understand their emotions before deciding on how best to discipline them. Yes, yes, patience is the essence of teaching!

I’ve learned and am still learning to understand my students’ learning ability and styles. Not all my students could write well. So I alter and adapt my materials according to their present skills so that they could learn how to write. My years of training in the education field have taught me well indeed – that we need to scaffold our lessons. It does not mean that if my students can’t perform according to my expectations, they are incompetent – it’s just that they have not learned it / acquired the skill. I need to have confidence that they have the potential to learn and flourish, and I need to give them this confidence so that they can become more than what they are. So I’ve learned to adjust my expectations according to their levels.

Lastly, my students reminded me that I am not perfect! I don’t have all the right answers to their questions. I make mistakes all the time. So I need to be a role model, to teach them that we should admit our mistakes and apologise for them. This is the hardest part of being a teacher. It is never easy to admit our faults and imperfections, what more, apologise for them. Because of my students, I’ve learned humility. And God loves a humble servant for He exalts those who are humble. 1 Corinthians 8:9 – But you must see to it that this right of yours does not become a stumbling block for those who are weak.

Sounds hard isn’t it? But I’ve learned that it isn’t that bad if I could just love them more. Because all children see in their innocent eyes is who loves them and who doesn’t With love, teaching could be the best career anyone could ever have. It is not tiresome. It is not burdensome. It is a joy!


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