During this year’s Teaching Practice period, I had a small epiphany, which had facilitated my personal development. I’d like to share it with you though this is about one of my weaker moments.
As a TP supervisor, I like to think of myself as being understanding, caring, encouraging, and supportive. It makes me feel good about myself. And indeed, when I have so many conscientious and brilliant student teachers, it’s easy to be that kind of person. You can easily find dozens of things to praise the student teacher about. The student teacher then feels happy and I think I’m being supportive. But am I REALLY caring and supportive?
As in previous years, during this year’s TP, there were times, though very few, when I witnessed a lesson which was far from satisfactory. I became more and more agitated when I was sitting in the back of the classroom, though I tried not to show it. I began, in my mind, to blame the student teacher for not having learnt his/her methodology properly and not being able to apply it ingeniously. During the postlesson discussion, I would jump to my comments immediately instead of first trying to understand what difficulties the student teacher was facing.
On one such occasion (though very rare), out of the blue, a message from another student teacher the previous day popped up in my mind. This student teacher, who had done well in the lesson, was thanking me for being supportive. At that moment, I felt that my behaviour towards this panicky student teacher sitting in front of me now was bordering on hypocrisy: “If I can ONLY be supportive to the well-performing student teachers, am I really the supportive teacher that I think I am?”
That epiphany opened up further thoughts in me: Has the student-teacher’s less-than-satisfactory performance something to do with my own teaching? What should I do next year when I re-teach the same course? What about individual differences? Do some student teachers learn differently? Right now, rather than blaming the student-teacher, what positive actions can I take? ……
These questions sparked off more thoughts about what I could and should do. Afterwards I became more patient, and I walked the extra mile in offering specific help to these student teachers. And out of this experience, I believe I have grown further as a teacher educator, and as a whole person.
We want to feel good about ourselves – our ego needs it – and so on one level of the mind, we will think that we possess all the socially-exalted virtues: We are caring; we are righteous; we are just; we are democratic; we respect equality …… And indeed, it is easy to be caring, righteous, just, democratic, and equality-conscious when things are going well. But the real test of who we really are is when things work against us.
So, the lesson I have learnt from my epiphany is that, yes, we need our self-esteem, but at the same time, we also need that critical self-awareness. If we indulge in the thought that we will always be ‘right’ or ‘the best’, we become a bigot, and we stop growing as a person.