Teach the children, not the subjects

At the beginning of the Make a Difference movie, Ms Thompson was preoccupied with teaching her subjects: reading, and maths. She noticed a failing little boy in her class, Teddy Stallard. At one point, she made an effort to find out more about his background, and was then shocked by what she unveiled. She then began to put extra effort on Teddy, which subsequently revived his confidence and performance. That Christmas Teddy handed Ms Thompson a clumsily wrapped present. After the children left, Ms Thompson cried for at least an hour. From that very day, Ms Thompson quit teaching reading and maths. Instead, she began to teach children.

Of course, we understand that it’s not really the case that Ms Thompson stopped teaching her two subjects. What it means is that she had learnt to put her students in their rightful place – that her students were the centre of her work – and that without the students, the teaching itself had no meaning.

In education, we value intrinsic motivation. But experienced teachers of young children will also know that if their students like them, they will easily like their teaching subject as well. One of the student teachers in my last year’s preservice primary group aspired to become a teacher out of a love of children, and the determination to make a difference in their lives. During the teaching practice supervisions, I already witnessed how her love for the children was making a significant impact on her students’ learning of English.

When the teacher training programme was over, she entered teaching with the same commitment. After 7 months of back-breaking real-life teaching, she shared with me this inspiring experience of hers:

“It was Parents’ Day last Saturday. As I am not one of the class teachers, I stayed in the corridor to help. Out of my expectation, many parents came up to me and thanked me for teaching their kids. They said their kids loved me so much which made them enjoy the English lessons so much. I felt flattered and touched. I’m feeling the power of love in education which will surely make a difference in children’s lives.

As some of the kids are really clever and brilliant in languages, I thought they had taken extra English lessons after school to reach that level. To my surprise, their parents told me they learnt all their English from my lessons. Their kids were motivated to study by themselves at home to achieve all that.”

In the Teddy Stallard story, after his year with Ms Thompson, Teddy continued to write to Ms Thompson on completion of every major stage of schooling with the affirmation: “Up to today, you’re still the best teacher I have ever had in my whole life.” I think in a way, that’s the privilege and reward of teaching children (as opposed to teaching teenagers, or adults) – you can love them, and your love may have a great impact on their later life.

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