Working on My Weaknesses

Ever since I was a student teacher, my mentor teachers (and students at the end of the year on my teacher feedback) noted two of my weaknesses as a teacher. It’s been the two things that I’ve been working on the most ever since five years ago. Working as an EFL teacher for the past two years has really challenged me when it came to these two weaknesses. One – my tendency to talk and teach too quickly. Two- my attachment to the students.

I talk too fast. I’ve known this ever since I was a student teacher. Perhaps even before then. When I was a student myself, I noticed that I would talk a lot faster and quicker when I was excited and nervous. During presentations and speeches, this was something that I had to watch out for. I could turn my 10 minute presentation into 5 minutes. Not exactly the best thing ever. But I think my teachers always noted how enthusiastic, passionate and knowledgeable I was about what I spoke about and that counted for more. However, as a teacher, I definitely needed to start catching myself when I was speeding up. As an EFL teacher, even more. The communication between myself and my students is already complicated enough without me speeding off in English when they’re already having trouble with the language. It was hard. I got 40 minutes a week with each class. And sometimes there was so much I wanted to teach. But I think I’ve definitely improved on my speed and delivery of lessons in the past two years. My co-teachers have also remarked on the improvement. But it’s still something that I need to constantly be vigilant about. It’s still something that can run away with me when I get caught up with a lesson.

I love my students. In the most affectionate, and professional way that that can be expressed. I don’t know how else to explain the bond I have with them. I care about them. About the progress in the classroom. About the lives they lead outside of my classroom. About the kind of people they will become as they grow up as individuals. In Canada, students at the end of the year have expressed how much they liked me as a teacher- to the point of calling me a sister or friend. And I knew that I shouldn’t have allowed them to think that as a teacher. In Korea, I thought it might be harder to make those bonds because of the language barrier. But in fact, the language barrier becomes evidence of how much I adore my students. The fact that I’m constantly trying to understand them and vice versa. I have students who love to talk to me in English and wish to know more about my life in Canada, a country they wish to visit. I have students who love to talk to me in Korean despite knowing my inability to understand them just because they really wish to communicate me nevertheless. And the past two years, I have had amazing students. I have adorable students. I have no idea how much difference I have made in their lives. I will also be the last foreign English teacher they get at the elementary school. I hope they remember me as a kind and friendly teacher. And feel that foreigners are approachable and English isn’t scary based on their experience of me.

So how is this a weakness? It’s the possibility of crossing the line between what is professional and what is not between a teacher and students. And I’m constantly checking myself to make sure I don’t cross that line. I love teaching. And I adore my students. I don’t think that will change. But I do tread more carefully and make sure the students don’t think of me as a friend.

I’m still working on how to be a good teacher. And sometimes I’m scared of how I may be starting from the beginning again as I head back to Canada to officially (attempt) to start my teaching career in Toronto. But I’m heading back with some experience and more awareness of my abilities and limitations as a teacher. I’m hoping that the school board interviewers and principals recognize my efforts in the past two years – even if it was not in a Canadian school board. I want to be able to do more as a teacher and starting at home seems to be a good place to start, again.