Both Sides of the Coin

Friday’s Perfect Moment is special in that it came conveniently packaged with its opposite. It came at me with its one-two punch.  Though I don’t really like gun metaphors, it was a double barrel shotgun blast.  Fortunately, the good came on the heels of the bad, thereby erasing it from my memory.  Had it been the other way around, I probably would have had to start a blog called Today’s Worst Moment.  Catchy as that title is, I am glad things worked out they did.

I was teaching a class of older, though not older than I, students. I was a somewhat emergency substitute, a stopgap, if you will, until their regular teacher, or a more regular teacher would appear on Monday.  Not that I was nervous, but knowing I was only going to teach them once, I felt especially relaxed.  I also had time to prepare a pretty good lesson plan–which is important for even the most experienced among us.

The first half of the class went well and the small break we have appeared rather suddenly. I left the classroom, hoping to cap off the second half of the class well.  Unfortunately for me, I ran into one of my regular students who seemed a bit in distress.  I stopped to see if there was anything I could do and was broadsided by her complaints about the lessons and the school.  Despite saying she thought I was a good teacher, she gave me a good earful on her what she thought would be proper learning.  I listened carefully to what she had to say and didn’t try to defend my teaching methodology.  I didn’t want to belittle her concerns and I want to be open to my students’ needs.

When you teach high school kids you expect to deal with lots of attitude and probably irate parents wondering why their lazy kid isn’t going to get into Harvard. I imagine it is like that, but perhaps I am wrong.  I teach high school age kids whose attitude and laziness sometime manifests itself.  Fortunately,  their parents are safely thousands of miles away.  Their agents are around, but they aren’t my area to deal with.

Teaching adults is somewhat different. They are paying their own way and have many different demands. They also have life experiences, expectations, and most worryingly, strong opinions on how English should be taught to them, despite the fact that this method wasn’t successful when they were children or teens.  I am not quite sure  why if it didn’t work then, they believe that it might work now. I guess it is ingrained.

Obviously, this is not a perfect moment; far from it in fact. Were I a new teacher, less experienced and somewhat less confident, it would probably have crushed me.  As it was, it didn’t make me feel good, but you’ve got to roll with the punches.  Thankfully, something loomed on the near horizon that would salvage the day.

When the final class was almost done and exhaustion was setting into every cell in my body, the students in my substitute class asked me if I could become their regular teacher. (Cue the Rocky music)   I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it felt quite good inside to hear them say that.  I don’t think its fair to their current teacher, nor do I think I could have wowed them consistently as much as I wowed them on that day.  However, in light of the earlier discussion, it was a welcome pick-me-up.

I thanked them for their compliments. I have very little say in my teaching assignments and rarely ask for a particular class.  I assured them that their teacher would be fine. Class dismissed.

 

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About Anthony

I am: equal parts rebel, romantic and shockingly average Joe. a writer trapped inside of an ESL teacher's body. an introverted attention seeker. a teacher who hopes one day to be called "Captain, my Captain." an intellectual who can do some very dumb things. a person whose Japan experience, despite being so long ago, still exerts a strong influence upon him. a lover of books, music, beer, hockey and Pizza.
This entry was posted in Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, compensation, complaints, compliments, ESL, students, teaching and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Both Sides of the Coin

  1. Heide says:

    What a wonderful compliment your (substitute) students paid you, Anthony! The Rocky music is very well-deserved. 🙂

  2. Anna Kwan says:

    Re: “When the final class was almost done and exhaustion was setting into every cell in my body, the students in my substitute class asked me if I could become their regular teacher. (Cue the Rocky music) I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it felt quite good inside to hear them say that. I don’t think its fair to their current teacher, nor do I think I could have wowed them consistently as much as I wowed them on that day. However, in light of the earlier discussion, it was a welcome pick-me-up.

    I thanked them for their compliments. I have very little say in my teaching assignments and rarely ask for a particular class. I assured them that their teacher would be fine. Class dismissed.”

    I received a similar reaction from the students when I was covering as a French teacher for 2 weeks. These children were definitely not afraid to speak their minds when they announced to their principal that they wanted me to be their French teacher full-time. Unfortunately, it was also tinged with some less-than-kind words about their current French teacher at the time. The principal had to remind them about not saying negative things about anyone. I was left in an awkward position–I understood that the students liked me as a teacher, but it was also at the expense of another teacher’s performance in the classroom.

  3. Anna Kwan says:

    Re: “When the final class was almost done and exhaustion was setting into every cell in my body, the students in my substitute class asked me if I could become their regular teacher. (Cue the Rocky music) I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it felt quite good inside to hear them say that. I don’t think its fair to their current teacher, nor do I think I could have wowed them consistently as much as I wowed them on that day. However, in light of the earlier discussion, it was a welcome pick-me-up.

    I thanked them for their compliments. I have very little say in my teaching assignments and rarely ask for a particular class. I assured them that their teacher would be fine. Class dismissed.”

    I received a similar reaction from the students when I was covering as a French teacher for 2 weeks. These children were definitely not afraid to speak their minds when they announced to their principal that they wanted me to be their French teacher full-time. Unfortunately, it was also tinged with some less-than-kind words about their current French teacher at the time. The principal had to remind them about not saying negative things about anyone. I was left in an awkward position–I understood that the students liked me as a teacher, but it was also at the expense of another teacher’s performance in the classroom.

  4. Brittany says:

    I suppose you can’t please everyone! It is always nice to have the reassuring words though.

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