Not too long ago I had to spend a few bored minutes at a store while the husband and I waited for the logistics of our television delivery to be figured out. Ever the product of this restless generation, I sought out the internet’s endless wonders to keep me occupied. It was then that I came across a very funny blog post written by one of my ex-students about me.
Those who’ve known me for a while know that I had once been an assistant lecturer at my alma mater for a brief semester. Although I needed to move on subsequently, it was an experience that opened my eyes to a whole new perspective. For starters, I wasn’t someone who was really expected to go into teaching per se. In fact, some peers even cracked up laughing at the very idea. But here’s the thing – I think I fared reasonably well at it. What’s more, I enjoyed the experience. For a young woman who’s spent all her life being labelled ‘shy’, ‘anti-social’, ‘quiet’ and even ‘cold’ and ‘arrogant’, it was a refreshing (slightly unnerving, even) challenge to be taken out of my comfort zone and thrust in front of classes of 50 or so young girls who were at the threshold of womanhood.
The biggest challenge, and consequently the most rewarding aspect, of teaching for me was to be able to connect to the students. There really is no other way of holding their attention. Having been on the other side, we all know there’s nothing worse than a teacher droning on and on and on without even bothering to check if we’re listening or understanding what is being said. Doesn’t the mere memory of those hours make you yawn uncontrollably?
I wasn’t the most experienced or accomplished lecturer. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been even if I’d chosen to continue teaching. One thing I was sure of was how much I disagreed with the current education system. Our current methodology is still too focused on telling children and young adults what to think rather than encouraging them to think differently. Young people today are more than capable of memorizing what is in notebooks and then spitting it out onto paper to get high grades. I strongly feel it is high time that teachers began to think about what more they can bring to their students’ lives. Inspiration and mentoring are invaluable additions to bring to the classroom. Ultimately that is what separates a memorable learning experience from just any other session.
With the advent of the internet and easily available information, teachers need to realize that their roles have to evolve as well. It is more about lighting the spark today rather than force-feeding lessons. Helping young people discover their own potential is so much more powerful than bellowing out mindless drivel. In fact, the charming and hilarious blog post that my student had written really revealed what students remember about teachers and what gets filtered out in boredom.
I loved the time I had interacting with my ex-students. They are wonderfully quirky young ladies who are all capable of making their mark in this crazy, competitive world. Some of them are still sweet enough to reach out and say hi once in a while. It really makes my day when they do. It is a reminder of my own potential that I let myself be blinded to thanks to labels and judgment. More than that, it is a reminder of the pure joy that one experiences when one connects with another human being.