The Teaching Moment You Live For


A quick look at some of the blogs I follow tells me that some people are already in a reflective mood. Nothing wrong with that, but I think I am not ready for that and will save that for tomorrow, when the year is fully put to bed.

Today’s Perfect Moment comes from one of those “teacher moments” that are shown so often in movies and on TV programs. You know the ones I am talking about.  Think the students standing on their desks for  Robin Williams.  Think …a young Ethan Hawke standing up for Jeremy Irons in Waterland (the book is better).

waterland 2                            Waterland

Okay, it wasn’t quite that dramatic, but there was still some drama to be had. You see, I am an ESL teacher.  My students, late teens and up,  come from all over the world and stay for brief or long periods, depending on their (more often their parents’) financial resources.  As our age gap grows, we seem to have very little in common.  They mostly like soccer and rap music, whereas I like hockey and rock music.  They care about Facebook and want to upgrade their cell phones. I prefer to blog and dream about the lightest and fastest bike I can get.  Sure, we can find common ground in current TV shows, but if it is a little bit older….let’s just say that the blank stares and silence can be really painful.

So, while today’s Perfect Moment wasn’t the students marching up the president and demanding a raise for this humble teacher, it was still a moment that I love to see. It was a moment of passion and expression.  It was a moment when the students were boiling over with energy and lost their nervousness and let the words flow from their mouths freely.

Today, being New Years Eve, saw a lot of students fail to attend classes. Some were on a bus to New York and an epic adventures.  Some were probably hung over.  The rest…..probably just too damn lazy to get out of bed.  If this were being written on a cell phone, I would probably insert some kind of angry face emoticon.  The result of all of this was that I had only two students in class for about three hours.   They were from the same country, so there was less of a chance of cross cultural exchanges.

Normally, this would make me rather nervous. Yes, I could spend a lot more time with each student, but that also meant that each student would need to spend a lot more time talking (and less time checking their phones for text messages).  Sometimes this can be hard.  An hour, I can do.  Three hours puts a lot of stress on everyone in the room.

Luckily, the two students were capable of carrying on a conversation with each other, and me when needed. They were able to tackle exercises and ask appropriate questions.  They were also willing and able to tackle corrections and pronunciation practice.

So the class went well. That’s not Today’s Perfect Moment, though.

Part of the class was the two of them discussing a story that I had assigned for homework. When they were done with their respective aspects, I asked them if they were reading a book in English.  Being a Lit graduate, I always hope to inspire my students to read.  Also, if they can get to a good proficiency level, reading can open up more vocabulary and learning opportunities.

Both students answered that they had just bought some English books and started talking about their favourite books. They shared recommendations and talked about their favourite authors.  They talked about bookstores in their country and how expensive books were (it’s a shame to tax literacy).  They were passionate and infectious.  It was that rare teaching moment when motivation came from the students rather than the teacher having to marshal it.  It was wonderful.  It was the kind of teaching moment that makes the bad ones worth it.  It was a good end to the teaching year.

Nobody stood on their desk though……

About Anthony

I am: equal parts rebel, romantic and shockingly average Joe. a writer trapped inside of an ESL teacher's body. an introverted attention seeker. a teacher who hopes one day to be called "Captain, my Captain." an intellectual who can do some very dumb things. a person whose Japan experience, despite being so long ago, still exerts a strong influence upon him. a lover of books, music, beer, hockey and Pizza.
This entry was posted in Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, bicycles, books, education, ESL, motivation, teaching and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Teaching Moment You Live For

  1. Brittany says:

    I completely get what you mean about worrying with the smaller groups, I get the same way! Glad it all worked out!

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