Humanising Language Teaching
How a Student's View of a Teacher can change
I took part in a conference of English teachers during my Comenius assistantship this January in Tenerife, Canary Islands. In one of the workshops we were asked to share the memories of the best and worst teachers we ever had.
I was to exchange the story with another participant who was sitting next to me. I became very nervous, but finally, I managed to tell him the story. Are you wondering why I was nervous? I received a Czech education-- there was no space for a pupil's opinion, no sharing, no cooperation, no respect. "Memorize this and that," and "This is not exactly what I have told you" were more often heard from the person sitting at the table at the front.
Soon after that I told the same story to a friend who had been my neighbour at elementary school. Always good at sports, he recalled many things we did in those times. Yet he stared at me and asked, "You really went through all that with her?"
When I was ten years old I got straight A´s. I realise that I memorized what was required. However, I could not memorize Physical Education (P.E.). At the end of sixth grade, on my request, I took a special test to avoid gettin a C for PE. The school headmaster came to the gym just to see me perform a somersault, a jamb and other essential exercises. The headmaster decided I deserved a B. With this headmaster, consulting was not a common practice, but I called for it not knowing where to turn for help.
I had suffered incredibly the entire previous school year. The gym teacher treated me as an unbearable, gawky student, who does not even try in gymnastics, athletics, swimming, and all the other main sports events. I did all I could; I tried and at times gave up because of her remarks that hurt me more than she ever realized. The school year culminated with the news that she was going to be our class teacher for the next year.
Then September came, and I was stressed to face her, but surprisingly, no disaster happened. I cannot explain the change in her behavior. I had not achieved any great gains in particular sports
The two summer months had changed her.
In the winter of that year our class went to the mountains for a week. Not surprisingly, I was among the weakest skiers. She had the patience and made the effort to teach me how to ski. Just as I cannot describe the stress I went through with her, it is hard to describe the happiness I felt then. I knew she cared about her pupils.
I have chosen a teaching career. Hopefully, my students will love English as much as I now love skiing. With the guidance of a teacher, I know that students' lives can be forever altered-the experience with my physical education teacher proves positively that with care, effort, and patience, any awkward student can come to love his/her pursuits.