Tonight, I had a strange conversation with Eva, a former student, on Facebook. It was a strange conversation because when it was over, I had no idea what had happened to Eva. Anyway, about 97% of the conversation below is real.
Eva: I feel like I’m a useless person.
Eva: People have high expectations of me, but I didn’t do well enough. I feel bad.
Paul: You need not bother too much about what people think of you.
Eva: I bother about how I think of myself.
Paul: Eva, time for a bit of logical thinking. The outcome was not as good as you had expected. Or you think you did not perform as well as you had wanted to. That’s it. Why did you jump to the conclusion that you’re a useless person? Now, give yourself two more minutes to feel bad about it, then forget all about it, and move on.
Eva: But I didn’t do well enough. I feel like I was just doing trial and error, and using my students as guinea pigs.
Paul: Haha, I often say to my students: “This is the first time I’m trying out this activity, so you’re all my guinea pigs.” Teaching is full of trial and error, but these are not blind experimentations. Our trial and error is founded on our knowledge, our training, our experience, and our common sense. So even if our attempt does not produce the desired results, most of the time it simply means our attempt hasn’t worked very well. As long as we’re reflective enough, our trial and error won’t cause serious damage to students’ learning. So, the next time we do it, we revise our strategy accordingly. As long as we keep doing this, our teaching will keep improving. Did you ever notice that this is how new doctors practice? They don’t start with the right solution to every problem.
Eva: Thanks, you’re always understanding. So I’ll tell the parents that the honourable Dr Paul Sze says that it won’t cause serious damage.
Paul: Don’t cite me when you talk to the parents. Well, your two minutes gone. Anyway, Eva, contemplate three things. First, you’re our TP Distinction graduate. Second, Paul may be a competent teacher today, but do you think he was as good as he is today when he started teaching in the last century? Third, the fact that you’re not happy about whatever happened actually shows that you have the most crucial attribute of a great teacher: the urge to strive for excellence.
OK, three minutes gone. Now put your sorrow behind you, and move on.
Eva: Paul, you just had me sobbing in front of the computer. I will keep your words in my heart, and I will move on.
Paul: Did I just make you cry? Haha, I did it again to somebody.
Eva: Again! You like making your students cry? Anyway, if I can be a good teacher, it’s because I have a good teacher of my own.
Paul: OK, I’ll assume you mean me, so I’ll copy this whole conversation into my blog, just to toot my own horn. Can I use your real name?
Eva: Sure! Eva is not my real name, anyway.
Paul: I’m always amused by your sense of humour. I enjoy chatting with you, but now I must move on. So bye for now. Let’s move on.
Eva: Good idea.