What Teaching Has Taught Me

Hey, it’s been awhile. Travels aside, I wanted to give something back. It’s so very simple to slack off on being thankful for all the numerous blessings that grace our lives each day. So…here’s just a handful so far.

1. Sometimes, you’re going to get it wrong, but it can still be a teachable moment.

Growing up, I always thought teachers were these superhuman (or sometimes strange) entities made to make learning either a fantastic journey or a tightrope act to getting an A. While sometimes my spidy senses do tingle, it’s usually because I forgot something in my scooter, and I must rush back into the trenches of the parking lot to retrieve it. Teaching is a TON of work and non-stop action. The best moments can be when you do something wrong. Instead of laughing it off, note it. In ESL, you can use it as an example about pronunciation, phonics, or responsibility. You can learn so much from a mistake, as can your students. However, to all those first year teachers out there, keep lesson planning and figuring out new ways to do things. The train wrecks will be real, but so will the learning. Big risks don’t ensure safe results, but who wants safe anyways?

2. Reflect

It’s really not just an English major thing, I promise. Reflection is key to getting better at what you do, whatever you’re doing. Once you make the leap into troubled waters and come back out alive, you might want to make a few notes about how you got there, don’t you think? I also really like to pray. I think I need to, actually. There are some days when even putting a pen to paper can seem too much.

3. Ask more questions and complain less.

I often find myself stuck in this rut of lamenting my circumstances, instead of choosing to ask, “How can I be better in this situation?” How can I react better? How can I plan better? Why did the classroom situation play out they way it did? Complaining can be therapeutic, but in cycles it can wreck your perspective on teaching. Hopelessness and cynicism might be comforting, but that doesn’t mean they’re productive bed fellows.

4. Forgive.

I can’t stress this one enough. I can be such a firecracker sometimes. I turn on the dramatics, complete with fuming at the ears and flared nostrils. I stomp around, huffing and whining. Again though, this does nothing to change the situation. My dad often says that anger and hate only traps your own soul. You become your own prisoner, enslaved to your feelings of betrayal and hate. Forgiveness is as much for the other person as it is for yourself. Perhaps it’s a student who cheated or a colleague who miscommunicated. Be the first to thoroughly think over the situation and forgive that person. No, not because they deserve it or because you owe it to them. I believe we forgive because God intended us to, because His Son first forgave us. Also, living as we do, I just do not think many of us want to live cynically or bottled up with a bevvy of mixed emotions. For myself, forgiveness is a gift that is free and promises freedom.

5. Get out of the classroom.

This applies both metaphorically and literally. In your head space, don’t forget to connect your lessons to the outside world. Your students are not just reading for grades (hopefully), but they can read for pleasure. They can read for empathy, a writer far from them yet near in heart. They can read to slip away from the harsh realities of life or dive into them. Encourage that and remember it in your lesson plans. Don’t let them fall flat and one-sided.

Once you do that, or if you fail to, take a moment to go outside. Is it raining? Snowing? Is the sun out? Let the sky do as it pleases. Let it wash away your grievances or bring to light something you were blind to. Never turn down a walk around the track or block, or even just a 5 minute break sitting outside. Living in Yilan with open hallways, the windows opening onto cyan mountains and tremulous rainstorms always remind us of how small we really are.

I’m just starting. I think this year has been the most stressed out I have ever been in my entire life, but it has also given me some of the greatest joy. I don’t know if I will be a great teacher, but I want to be. I want to know what sacrifice means, what it means to not live comfortably, but to live fully. I want to know what it means to not be lukewarm in anything, but ablaze with a passion for life.

Now is not the time to sit still and settle for compromises. Now is the time to rethink, relearn, and begin again.

Wishing you the very best.

S.

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