3 Lessons My Students Taught Me

I came across this quote on my Facebook page this week, a gif shared by the BrainPower Neurodevelopmental Center in Newburgh, Indiana.

At first, I thought about my home situation; the older my sons become, the more I realize they are their own selves. What a myth to believe that kids become what parents ‘make’ them! Even if you raise them in a totalitarian environment, their personalities will surface (I hope!) and they will emancipate themselves to become who they truly are!

However, the second part of the quote was what really got me thinking, the part about children teaching their parents so they can become what they, as parents and people, can become.

I suddenly mentally flipped over to my classroom situation. My students, too, are what they are supposed to be, not what I thought they’d be. Oh, so what have they taught me then to help me become a better teacher and, ultimately, person? Certainly, a lot! Here are just three examples.

Lesson #1: You don’t have to know everything.  

Teachers know that questions are a sign of intelligence. I always say it is the door opening to understanding. I get excited when students ask questions; it means they are ready to learn, and they are going to ‘get it’. The brain is processing the data. Cognitive psychology explains that the more the brain processes the information, the more likely it is that the individual will develop the neural pathway and maintain the information in their long-term memory. Deeper learning means greater mastery and that leverages competence.

Yes, but sometimes a question comes up that you just weren’t anticipating and just don’t have the answer. You don’t know. Brain freeze! No matter how much you search your brain, the answer is just not there. For example, how come ‘theirselves’ is not the correct reflexive pronoun? Not so easy! Some of the forms take the possessive form of the personal pronoun (I – myself; You – yourself). It would seem logical to then say They – theirselves). But that is not the case. It’s just one of those things – something you have to memorize.

You’re almost afraid they’ll ask questions! No big deal. You can’t know everything, so you use that handy phrase: That’s a great question!  And then, either follow up with a Google search live, or go home and do your homework so you’ll be prepared with a fantastic explanation next class.

Lesson #2: You don’t have to always be in control.

The other day, I suddenly felt sick during my first of two morning classes. I was sure I was turning green and about to fall of my chair. Catastrophe! I’m the teacher, I’m supposed to be in control! I couldn’t move, and just wanted to put my head down and rest.

The students were great. They offered advice, they suggested I drink some water or go for a walk. When the class was over, the next group came in and continued the good work. They got me laughing. They took over. They first took out their homework and began correcting it with my weak input. Then one of them asked if I had any games. I did, so she went and chose one and got the other two playing. By the end of the class, I felt much better. They were wonderful.

The concern, care and initiative of the students blew me away. It also reminded me that I didn’t always have to be the boss. After all, what is student-centered learning all about? Students take ownership of their learning. The teacher is just there to guide and facilitate.

Lesson #3: It’s okay to not be perfect.

Perfectionism is the bane of the teacher. We want everything to be just perfect (you know, a perfect A, 100%): the lesson plan, the presentation, the activity, the materials, even our appearance!  But sometimes you just don’t have the time to get it Just Right. Anxiety attack! And the quality of the lesson goes downhill from there!

Last week I asked a student what their lesson of the day was. The student answered: stop thinking, start doing. An enriching discussion ensued.

Once again, it was the disciple teaching the master. Do what you can with what you have. You don’t have to be perfect; be real, drop the ego, and enjoy the discovery of learning with your students.

In conclusion, maybe the people, places and events around us are not the way we expect but are rife with lessons to learn. Accepting, acknowledging and appreciating them for the truths they reveal, is not easy, but part of adapting to the ever-changing nature of life.

Does this resonate with you? Please let me know in the Comments section. I love hearing from my readers!

Cheers!

Claire :o)

 

*Photo and link to BrainPower Neurodevelopmental Center : https://www.facebook.com/BrainPower-Neurodevelopmental-Center-889931051105659/?tn-str=k*F

5 Ways To Boost Your Child’s ESL Learning (and it’s not as hard as you may think!)

The question my student voiced was valid: How can I help my kids with their English homework? They just don’t seem to retain the words I teach them.

This father was echoing the very same concern I heard over and over again when I taught at a local elementary and high school.

If you are a parent, I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about. You know how important it is; you use English at work, as soon as you do a search on the Internet or when meeting clients from the US or elsewhere in Canada. You know that these days, you can’t get by without it.

And to bring things home, Secondary 5 students in Québec can’t get their high school diploma without demonstrating mastery in English oral and written skills.

So, how can you help your child? Neuroscience tells us that to develop the pathways (learning), it takes repetition and constantly having to retrieve the information at varying times and in varying contexts.

Here are my 5 top tips to keep your kids on their toes.

  1. Surprise them – Sing to the songs the radio station plays in English on the way to school or dance lessons. Switch up the program on Saturday morning, and choose an English show instead. Use an English-language family event calendar on the fridge.
  2. Play with them – Challenge them to play online games and apps in English for a set time before being allowed to game with friends in French. Even bath-time can be an opportunity to identify objects, colors, shapes, textures functions of basic, everyday objects. Why not? Get on the floor and play Lego’s in English.
  3. Model for them – Once a week, speak in English at dinner time, or while having a snack. When I was doing a practicum in teaching in a grade 5 class, we had Star Time, in which the students could only speak English. They would earn stars for their efforts. If they spoke in French, they didn’t get their star. A chart on the fridge could keep track (just an idea!) The idea is to show that English is used outside the classroom walls, and that the words they are learning in class are useful at home, too!
  4. Read to them – Reading a book to your child before going to sleep is an excellent way to feed vocabulary into your child’s brain so that it processes during the night. Once a week isn’t a chore, and your child will come to associate English with a quality time with Mom or Dad. Emotions are key to learning, and snuggling up for a read is sure to give an endorphin boost that will lower the day’s stress levels, and help you both sleep better!
  5. Be a fan – One last thing, that I just have to mention here. Keep the tone positive when talking about or to your child’s English teacher. Teaching thirty-some children, all at different language levels, with different learning styles and needs, once or twice (maximum!) a week, to speak a foreign language is no easy feat. You are your child’s hero, and if you think your kid’s teacher is awesome, then chances are they’ll think so, too. Personally, I remember the students whose parents had a super-positive attitude towards me and the work I was doing with their child. The child always made more effort to do the homework and made greater progress when the teacher-speak at home was positive.

You know, when you make the effort to speak English, even if you make mistakes, your child is impressed (even if they laugh at first!) They see that making mistakes is no big deal, not the end of the world, but the beginning of an adventure. What’s more, they’ll be much more likely to take the risk of raising their hand to answer in class because they understand that taking risks can mean making mistakes, but more importantly, it means learning.

And that’s when your child will start retaining and speaking in English. You, as parent, are the one that can give them that essential boost. What are you waiting for?

Have fun! – Claire :o)

[Photo: Shutterstock/Dmytro Zinkevych)