I have a student teacher with me for the month of April. Sheila is from Ottawa, and for her last practicum has opted to come to Malaysia to learn not only how to teach, but to find out what another culture is like. I think it is incredibly gutsy of her! Sheila is great, and I have enjoyed her can-do spirit and her rapport with the kids. But I have not always had good success with student teachers. There is something about this job that brings out the worst in people, and it is never more apparent than when they are starting out. steve-and-me_1

For some reason having a class full of naive and trusting children in front of them encourages otherwise rational adults to behave like young autocrats auditioning as storm troopers. They get the idea that ordering other human being around has something to do with learning. It doesn’t. Instead it has everything to do with your vanity and your desire to make other human beings miserable. You want to rule someone, and these poor kids are as close to it as you are likely to get. chan-and-evelyn_1

I remember when I first starting taking on student teachers I would be careful to emphasis lesson plans and proper preparation and the organization that pedagogy requires. Not anymore. Now I go right to the core message: you show me that you care for these kids or I won’t let you anywhere nearthe front of the classroom. I needn’t have worried with Sheila, who within a few days had everyone’s name down pat and was carrying on animated conversations before and after class. As a result she doesn’t need to correct any behaviour or exert any discipline during her lessons. The kids like her, and therefore they listen to what she has prepared for them to learn. jagdeep-and-jaipreet_1

I don’t know why so many in this profession have failed to learn the lesson that learning is based on relationships. Develop rapport, and everything else will fall into place. Kids want to know you care before they care about what you know. This doesn’t mean there won’t be some poor students in your class. A class is just a cross section of the culture you live in. The only difference is that  in a class you can set the tone: critical and controlling, or caring and compassionate. Would the first type kindly leave the profession I love and get a job a job as a security guard where you’ll be much happier and do far less damage! yi-ming_1

I have just a delightful group of students with me this term, some of whom are pictured on this post, others you can find in our Flickr sidebar. They come from as far away as Tanzania and the Punjab and English is for some of them their third or fourth language. So if they struggle with the intricacies of our grammar, that is only natural. They are invariably pleasant and polite and have a keen desire to make an impact on their world. As a teacher I get the opportunity to help them learn how to do that. What a huge responsibility. What a great privilege.