Thursday, November 26, 2009

Today I questioned myself as a teacher

This morning I had speaking tests with the students. One by one they came into my office. I showed them a picture and they had to say a simple sentence which we've studied intensely.

"Let's play soccer"
"Sorry, I can't. I'm tired"

They're usually very nervous for one-on-one speaking tests, so I chat to them for about 30 seconds before we start. I ask them things like what they had for breakfast and what they enjoy about English class (I speak in broken Korean)

Today - as a teacher - I felt frustrated. A bit sad, too.

I asked some of them, "How are you?" and they replied, "It's sunny"
I repeated the question and they gave me the same answer.

I bet you're thinking that's so adorable, right? A year ago, I'd have thought they same thing. But for the past two and a half years I have placed SO much emphasis on basic greeting.

A: How are you?
B: I'm good thanks/fine thanks - and you?

So when a student answers "It's sunny" when asked "How are you?" I actually feel like bursting into tears. And - it was overcast and cold all day.

Weather is another thing I've drilled over and over again.

A: How's the weather?
B: It's sunny/rainy/windy

When I stand in front of a class asking them questions, I'm overwhelmed with joy when I hear 36 little voices chanting the answers back at me. I feel so proud to know that I've imparted knowledge to these little people.

However, the real test comes when a teacher is with a student on-one-one.

Today I questioned myself as a teacher.

What am I doing wrong? I certainly don't want to think that I'm [dare I say it] wasting my time?

I put a lot of effort into my lessons and was awarded for it earlier this year. I know there are probably other teachers who feel the way I do. I'm not a teacher by profession. So I haven't studied the sociological aspects of what is to be a teacher. But why aren't they grasping simple things I'm teaching them?

All I know is that I'm putting my all out there. How much are my students taking in? This is what has been bothering me all day.


Ken Wilson said...

Oh, what memories you stir with stories like that! At the end of the day, the very presence in their lives of a supportive and sympathetic adult will remain with them longer than anything else.

David said...

I agree with Ken. You DO make a difference, just by showing up and caring.

Sure, the language is important but the language of the heart is a much more important narrative and elixir.

Keep going - it is these moments that make us strong....


Sheetal said...

Dear Ken,

Thank you :-) If I stir up memories for you, then it makes me think that this feeling is shared by teachers all around everywhere. I appreciate your kind words~

Sheetal said...

Dear David,

Thank you for saying that! I love that "language of the heart". I will always try to remember that. I appreciate you reading this :)

Unknown said...

Dont worry dear, i think you are on right way and working hard to teach them also. But their answer also making me think what wrong they doing? Try to check the answer of "how are you" in korean and translate straight in english, you might get "it's sunny". Cos as a foreign language student, they(me too) first translate the english in to their language(ie. korean) and then find answer in korean and then translate it back to english, i think there is a problem. Cos that way i was keep doing mistakes when i was speaking english in beginning. Now i dont do translate it to my language, even i dream in english sometimes... lol.. hope all will be come right and they will give you all nice answers and make you proud to be a teacher... Take care

Sheetal said...


I didn't know you when you were first learning English (I can't imagine you learning it because you express yourself so very well in your comments to me!)

Funny that you dream in English too! Some of my Korean friends tell me that they do it too! Haha :)

Thanks for reading :)

Nicki said...

As a parent, I do feel you on this. You feel you are partially to blame. However, it is the students. Everyone is different. I know my professors in school blame themselves if no one is doing well too, they think it's them.

Sheetal said...


Your comment reminds me of my university lecturers as well. They used to say that they feel like they're failing when the class does poorly. But in fact, it was us (the students) who didn't make the effort.

They did everything expected of "teachers" and the rest was up to us (the students). I can see how it can relate to parenting as well. Thanks, Nicki! x

Jason Renshaw said...

Try looking up the Cambridge Young Learner Tests and take a look at how speaking is tested (especially the Starters Level). This will give you some new ideas on how to test for very young learners, as the items often combine actions (motor skills) with things to say.

If you test based on drills, you'll get drill-like responses, and when they're wrong they'll be spectacularly so!

Challenge yourself with a new testing method, and even if your kids struggle with it, it will rejuvenate and motivate you!

All the best,

~ Jason

Sheetal said...


Thank you for the recommendation - I will definitely be looking it up! I think that's what I need - rejuvenation and motivation :-)