Good teachers need, and deserve, a sense of pride

Jeff Chong, a Year 3 student teacher, was about to finish his first Teaching Practicum at a primary school. He received lots of thank-you notes from his students. He was deeply touched by the children’s expression of appreciation, put all the thank-you notes on his bed, took a picture of them, and posted the picture on Facebook. He attached this remark to the photo: 適當的吹噓是必要的 HAHA.

Jeff was obviously being humble. So I wrote him the following comment:

Jeff, that’s not bragging. I call it ‘a sense of pride’, which good teachers need, and deserve. You more than deserve all those appreciation notes.

There is no harm telling the world that your students appreciate your teaching. To earn their students’ gratitude, good teachers have to put enormous amounts of effort into their teaching. They also have to teach from the heart, which students can feel easily. Some people might argue: Shouldn’t that be what teachers are doing? But good teaching, and being a good teacher, require colossal sacrifices. A lesson may last for only 40 minutes, but a teacher who cares about good teaching may be investing three hours in designing and redesigning the lesson, and creating related teaching resources. Good teachers will give up their own time to help solve their students’ emotional and academic problems. Teachers differ from those in other helping professions, such as nurses, doctors, dentists, psychologists, etc., who have more concrete working hours, even when they are overworked. Teaching, on the other hand, can be a 24/7 job. Good teachers make unquantifiable sacrifices, and that is why they deserve their students’ gratitude.

They do not need to feel uncomfortable about letting people know their hard work is being appreciated by their students. In fact, this sense of pride is good for teachers’ emotional wellbeing. They know they are doing good work, and they know their effort is being appreciated by their students. This knowledge will keep up their passion in teaching.

Haha, my turn to ‘brag’, or to share. These two months are the Teaching Practicum period for the PGDE programme. During this time, I go to schools all over Hong Kong for lesson observation visits. When I arrive at these schools, once in a while, I will run into a former student teaching at the school.

Yesterday, I visited PLK Grandmont Primary School for lesson observations. After the lesson, I had a post-lesson discussion with the student teacher, and half way into it, another student teacher knocked on the door, and said that a former student teaching at the school was waiting outside the meeting room, hoping to say hello to me. Immediately I went out of the room, and there waiting to greet me was this cheerful lady, whom, honestly, I had no recollection of. Fortunately, she took the initiative to jog my memory, by telling me her name, and where and when I was her teacher during teacher training. Miss Rita Tong then continued to relate episodes from her teacher training days, and how she was inspired by my effort and passion in teaching. Half-jokingly, I said: “Did I really do those things?” Well, those episodes probably did take place, though I couldn’t recall them. Rita then told me she saw my name in my student teacher’s timetable, and had been looking forward to meeting up with me. She continued to shower me with words of appreciation.

You know, we Chinese are taught to act humble, but I have learnt to accept appreciations gracefully. So instead of refuting or diluting her praises, I listened and then thanked Rita for taking the time and initiative to convey her positive feedback to me. I told her how I was cheered and motivated by her kind words. Her words confirmed that I was doing good work, and that it had made a difference, even if in a small way, in a teacher’s professional learning.

So, you see, I should be the more thankful one; I should thank Rita for grabbing the opportunity to outwardly express her gratitude to me. This has helped to reinforce my sense of pride in my work, and given me much renewed energy for meeting the new challenges ahead.

I am sure all of you good teachers out there have a lot of similar experiences to share. You run into a former student from many years ago, who report to you the wonderful things you did and which you have forgotten, and then you realise that without your own knowing, you have made a positive influence on somebody’s life.

To wrap up this post, before Rita turned up outside the meeting room, I had been pondering whether I should look up the Discipline Mistress of the school to thank her for the excellent job that the school had done in building the superb classroom dynamics in the whole school. I have observed more than 4 lessons at PLK Grandmont Primary School, and in all the lessons, whatever the grade level and the time of the day, the students behaved immaculately. They gave the teacher their full attention, and energetic response. This has made life so much easier for my student-teachers, who lack experience in classroom management. Because the students are so teachable and cooperative, my student-teachers can afford to be creative and adventurous in their lesson planning.

I was not sure whether I should look up the Discipline Mistress, whom Deputy Principal Fung told me was Ms Rita Tong, to thank her for the good job the school had done, because I could be distracting her from her hectic duties. So, imagine my exhilaration when I found out that the lady waiting to greet me outside the meeting room was Ms Rita Tong …

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One thought on “Good teachers need, and deserve, a sense of pride

  1. Robert Frost (psuedonym)

    Veteran teacher A who has more than 20 years of teaching experience said,
    ‘Teachers need to reorient themselves to find their own goals- I think if as a teacher you try to make everyone happy you will feel huge stress but if you pursue your own objectives- help Ss or improve language tchg say then it can be stimulating rather than depressing but teaching many faces is always tiring’

    Veteran teacher B who has more than 15 years of teaching experience said,
    ” It’s true that sometimes the sense of satisfaction that a teacher may experience is great when he/ she feels that he/ she can help others effectively, but sometimes a teacher has to sacrifice too much of his /her healthy life, too.”

    Your blog entry seems to me that the element of working 24/7 is downplayed whilst the sense of pride is emphasized.

    Contrary to positive reinforcement, I would rather all veteran adults who have graduated from “school of life” tell us young adults the reality (and cruelty?) of work life directly prior to graduation. For instance, you can make mistakes in homework when you are a student, but you cannot make even trivial mistakes when you work. You can always be complimented by teachers saying “Effort shown/ impressive/ A/ nice”, but so long as you are not summoned by your boss into his/ her room at work, you should feel contented.

    This is what not I, but also my friends of the same age, deem the same – inform us with the reality of work life rather than one-sided coin of work life. Yes, Young adults need passion, but let us be prepared psychologically as well rather than be crushed in the first few years of work life.

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