Never under-estimate what your students can teach you! (by Berni Wall)

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15 Responses

  1. Barbara Barbara says:

    What great lessons to share, Berni! To be honest, I wasn’t sure whether to post this under “Stuff all EFL Teachers Should Know” or “Lessons Learned from Students” since it really is both!

    You main point, however, that we should never underestimate what we can learn from our students, is a powerful message that is definitely something all EFL teachers should know. (But I did compromise, and file this post under both series so that future searchers will come across it in both categories!)

    The next time I start whining about transportation headaches, or challenging children, or equipment that seems bent on ruining my lesson, I will remember the breakfast I had that morning and the meal awaiting me on my return, and know that I really don’t have anything to complain about 🙂

    Thanks for the reality check!

    • Berni Wall says:

      Thanks Barbara, I think this applies even to young learners if we pay attention as teachers to the two-way process then there is always something new to find.

  2. Oh great post!
    I’m wondering if we’re witnessing the birth of a powerful blog-meme – great lessons we’ve learnt from students.

  3. Once a teacher, always a student! I couldn’t agree more with you, Berni! Thank you for sharing these valuable experiences with the rest of us.

  4. Lovely post Berni! Very inspirational.

    I thinks the other way around works fine too: Never over-estimate what your students can learn with you. (na, doesn’t sound so inspirational : )

    I picked a quote out of my pocket that I thought would go along well with your first three paragraphs.

    “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean, but the ocean would be less because of that missing drop. We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa

    • Berni Wall says:

      Hey Willy thank you for your comment! You are right it’s always a two-way process!
      I really love your quotation from Mother Theresa – exactly what I was trying to say only she is more eloquent!

  5. David says:

    Great stories! I think you highlight how we as teachers should be “open” to change/learning within our own classrooms. That we should be humble enough to say — “hey, you students know this (something) better than I do!”. No posturing but being mature enough to let go…..

    I learned that lesson too far along my learning curve. I was teaching Grade 8 ESL. Teaching like I always did, like my teachers had taught me, from the front, book in hand. Explain, do the exercises. However, one day I was teaching Algebra. Basic stuff but I didn’t know it well and it showed. For some reason I gave the chalk to Jasmine, one of my Iranian students who the other students looked up to. Wow! She just captivated them, explaining, chalk flying. So I decided to just step back, drink my coffee and get to know my students as Jasmine taught. (of course, never telling a soul on the staff!!!!).

    We learn so much in teaching – even that sometimes we know so little.

    Thanks for the great read and start to my day ….. stories speaking so loud.

    David

    • Berni Wall says:

      Lovely story David!

      I think as new teachers we feel we have to be in charge and the traditional role of teacher is as you describe, at the front with all the answers. I think it is a sign of maturity when we realise that others (even the very young) have even better answers than we do.

      I agree that we learn every day as a teacher and what can be more wonderful that that!

      Enjoy your day 🙂

  6. Marisa Pavan says:

    Great anecdotes, Berni! I agree with you that teaching is a learning experience.
    In general, my students have helped me become open-minded and tolerant. As teachers, we learn to accept diversity and to understand that each person has their own internal rythm.
    Teaching is also a way of releasing the mind from trouble. It happens to me that when I’m teaching, I forget about all and concentrate on the class. I’m thankful as this profession has allowed me to overcome difficulties.
    Regards,
    Marisa Pavan

    • Berni Wall says:

      Thank you for your comment Marisa.

      You are right about teaching helping us to be more open-minded and open-mindedness is the best state for learning.

      I know when I teach that I probably do know more about English than many of my students – that’s why they are there, but I learn a lot about English through hearing about their languages and how they work and what the relationships are within languages and even when they are like chalk and cheese to each other. This informs my teaching and I hope makes it better!

      I suppose teaching can be very cathartic and in some fields it can be heart-wrenching and very difficult but what it is or should never be, is about us – the teacher.

  7. Amy says:

    Lovely post Berni! Very inspirational.

    I thinks the other way around works fine too: Never over-estimate what your students can learn with you. (na, doesn’t sound so inspirational : )

    I picked a quote out of my pocket that I thought would go along well with your first three paragraphs.

    “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean, but the ocean would be less because of that missing drop. We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa

    • Berni Wall says:

      Thank you Amy for your comment. I love the quotation – it’s very apt and is exactly how we should think as teachers about what we do.
      Berni

  1. May 18, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Barbara Sakamoto, paulmaglione. paulmaglione said: RT @barbsaka: Fabulous guest post from @rliberni "Never under-estimate what your students can teach you" http://ow.ly/1MpGR #elt #esl […]