Expat

What makes a good teacher?

Some teachers think their students are stupid. I don’t think my students are stupid, in fact, quite the opposite, I think they are smart and clever and little geniuses. If they are giving me that blank open mouth stare I think I’ve done a poor job explaining what I want them to do. Or I think they are having one of those moments when our brain decides to take a sleepy time nap.

There is a 14 year old student ringleader in my latest low level junior class. He’s tall, well-made and hilarous. Oh, and the bane of my existence for about 1 hour from Tuesday to Friday. He often stares off into space or decides this is a good time to work on his world map reading skills and partakes in self talk like, “Where is Hong Kong????” when they should be doing something else.

He also sends the girls into uncontrollable giggles and the boys into wanting to be more like him.

Because I have worked with younger children I pretty much treat the teenagers the same way, with a lot of patience and understanding. At times I think about how he does in other classrooms, possibly with a teacher who snaps their fingers in front of his face because he’s a day dreamer. But since I’m the same way, I don’t do that. I just remind him (at least once during every class) what he needs to be doing.

And frankly sometimes the kids are just tired. I’m surprised by how much schooling Thai students go through, by how much homework and studying and extra special classes they have to do. I don’t remember this from my childhood but then again, I grew up in Hawaii where we take sabai sabai right into the educational level. I had recess in high school.

The teenagers in Thailand have also retained the innocence that has promptly left the kids in the United States. It’s embarassing. (Along with the heafty weight problem that plagues the nation.) So when I work with the juniors it seems very natural to treat them as I would the younger children. They are, after all, still children.

I can’t stand it when adults treat children like little adults. Not only are they not physically, they are not mentally (same thing) developed and that confuses the mathematics right out of them. I was considered a mature kid because I was quiet. But I wasn’t. My dad fricken died so I was melancholic. I was anything but worldly and knowledgeable.

I’m also a second language learner, so I feel very sympathetic towards my students who are struggling with English. Anyone could find me on a bad day attempting to speak English Thai and decide, “What a moron.” And I’ve accepted moron status. But not in a degrating way, in a Hey I really don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m trying kind of way.

Another boy in that same junior class wrote down “stupid” for adjectives to describe himself during one of the exercises. I was shocked and said, No, you’re not. Why would you say that? Of course, I realized someone must have told him that. And since this was just a few days in the class I secretly wondered about him because he was – so quiet and often would not answer me.

Turns out, he’s brilliant. He knows what he’s doing, and he knows what I’m saying. He just makes this distressed face while he processes. Adorable! I get it. I mean, it takes me a little while to move over to Thai and I hate it when someone jumps in just as I’m getting ready to say what I wanted to say in pasa Thai.

So he makes a funny face, so he takes his time and we naturally assume our children are stupid? Look I know I’m not a great teacher, my grammar is something I need to review and talk out with my colleagues. I have a lot to learn. Newer teachers are better than me. It’s simply not my gift. My gift is my ability to relate to people. My gift is – I like you and believe in you, just the way you are.

You do realize, now, that I have high jinxed myself and will get the biggest challenge yet….coming soon.

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