10 September 2018
“Teresa, I think this lesson was too easy for us. We’ve learned these grammar points in, maybe, primary school.”
Oof. Definitely not something you want to hear as a teacher.
“Maybe because you are new and have just come to China, you don’t know our experience and what we’ve learned before.”
Called out for my inexperience? Ding, ding, ding. Take me out of the ring because I just got K-O’ed.
Class had just ended and one of my students had approached me about today’s lesson, where I had them go over a short story and find the key grammar points that were highlighted in their textbook. Maybe that’s where I went wrong. I played by the book — as usual. As someone with a lot of anxiety and self-doubts, it’s not hard to see how this small comment brought me spiraling into an existential crisis. I always follow the rules and am afraid to cross any lines. I’m a people pleaser and a perfectionist who doesn’t know how to let loose. And honestly, I don’t really know why. This way of being has been hardwired into my brain and I don’t know which wire to cut to diffuse it. So learning that my lesson didn’t go over well didn’t just hurt, it messed with my head.
After class, another one of my students was kind enough to bring me to the cafeteria and treat me to a meal, it was national teacher’s day after all. After thanking her for the food, I asked her more about herself and her goals for learning English. I asked her: “What kinds of things do you want to learn in class, or how do you think I can best teach you?”
“Well, today’s lesson with the PPT (PowerPoint) is the Chinese way of teaching. Yeah, we don’t like that. We like your way better, like on the first day of class with the Bingo game. That was good.”
Great, another criticism. Arrow to the heart.
I smiled, thoroughly ignoring her positive remarks about the first lesson. “Okay, thank you. That’s good to know. I’ll definitely make the lessons more fun and interesting from now on.” And I wasn’t lying, it is good to know. I want to be the best teacher I can be and that means learning from my failures and knowing my students’ needs. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt to hear I failed.
It definitely didn’t help that today was teacher’s day and that only one student offered to help me navigate the cafeteria when I asked. I felt as if I had been caught in a lie. That I’m not really a teacher and that I don’t deserve to be viewed as one by my students. I feel that they can see right through me.
Maybe I’m looking too much into this — scratch that, I know I am. But I can’t help it. This is how I am. I overthink and overanalyze every little thing. And it doesn’t help that I have the memory of an elephant. Right now, and for me in general, it’s easy to get caught up in the negative. But I’m trying not to. I’ve added small things like meditation and exercise to my daily routine to keep myself balanced and in check. And of course, I’m trying to see the positives in every situation.
I’m so grateful that my students’ feel they can come to me and speak to me candidly. I’m impressed at my students’ eagerness to squeeze as much as they can out of their education. What should I have expected? I was the same way in college, why would my students in China be any different? We’re all just people seeking to learn. Maybe it’s time to take off the mask of trying to be this professional teacher and bring out my inner-nerd. This way, we’ll be on the same page and on the same quest for knowledge — them toward a higher level of English, and me toward a better understanding of what it means to be an educator.
Now, back to the drawing board. I have a lesson plan to rework.