I decided to start a series about Why/How I teach to help others understand how I think when I teach and why I do that or why I teach in a certain way. It may not be the right way, it may not be the wrong way: I thought that by sharing this, others may begin to understand how teachers and tutors actually think when they teach, and hopefully realize that it isn’t something easy to do. At first, I was afraid since others might want to copy the way I do things, but my mother’s business has never gone out of business for the past five years even though she’s given out her recipes to people. On the positive side, maybe some new tutors or teachers could learn a thing or two and maybe, I would have encouraged better teachers out there. Who knows.
I had just realized that I have spent almost half my adult life teaching. I started when I was sixteen, teaching my peers and juniors Mathematics.
I hadn’t always been an A student before that. In fact, I had always done terribly to the point of my Math teacher recommending that I drop the subject before my major ‘O’ Level national exams so it wouldn’t affect my overall score. But after a couple of months of serious studying and hard work, I brought my F9 (23.5%) to a low Distinction B3 (65%-69%) with the help of a dedicated tutor whom I will always attribute my passion for teaching to.
I suppose one of the early reasons why I chose teaching as a calling was the special moment when you student gets the ‘Eureka!’ moment when you’ve guided them through a question. Now, I’d like to think that my teaching gives them the self-belief that they can achieve whatever they want so long as they work hard at it.
I began to see that my role had to change from a teacher in a classroom, to someone who had to understand the many factors and layers of human uniqueness in my student and their environment and support them in order to make them succeed academically. (You can argue all you want about the absurdity of scoring high marks in tests but I honestly feel that if taken from the perspective of cultivating problem-solving skills, it all becomes quite pragmatic.)
So now, I prefer to refer to myself as a Study Coach. As a Coach, I have to consider all the factors that affect my students’ learning. Their environment, diet, upbringing, discipline, self-belief, mental health, etc. It’s really a lot to learn, and it can get quite challenging at times having to read so many things. It involves a lot of trial-and-error as I try (and still keep trying to) figure out ways to build the fire of motivation in my students. It really isn’t easy to do so since I only meet them once a week. God knows what happens on the other six days that diminishes their motivation to improve themselves. It could be a family squabble or a fight with a friend. Sometimes it could be something they ate just before class and their focus completely disappears.
But I don’t easily get angry at that because I know these things happen. I suppose it’s quite similar to the job of a personal trainer, where most of the work towards success is on the shoulders of the client. The trainer has to find ways to support and maintain the client’s motivation and consistency in their routine.
That’s why I read books to better understand the human psychology, the development of children, how learning works, and how to become a better teacher. I just wished that more parents understand that my work as a professional involves constant research and improvement of my skill and knowledge. Some parents feel that since they’re paying, they get to choose how their child is being taught. But if their teaching methods are superior, why did they ask help from a full-time tutor or why is their child not academically successful? All I ask if for clients to respect us as professionals.
I suppose this is part and parcel of my job, and I’ll simply have to find ways to continue relighting my candle to refuel my passion in teaching.
In the next episode, I will be talking about the phase when I was rather curious about how people attain language or language acquisition, and how that affected my teaching of the English Language.
Thanks in advance for reading this!