18 Nov 2012


This past week I have spent quite a bit of time looking through the essay I asked my students to write on their ten-year plan. At this point in my tenure as a teacher, I am able to put a face to my students’ names. I am lucky that I only teach about 70 students so I don’t have as many faces and names to memorize as other teachers. Being able to put faces to names means that when I am marking I can gauge if the work is independently done or they have been ‘assisted’.

I was really surprised when I started reading an essay and it was relatively coherent. I looked at the name and I was curious how the young man had
written so well. So, I had the boy summoned to defend his essay. On arrival, I asked the student who wrote the essay. He replied that he had written his essay with his brother. I asked if the brother had written the essay for him. He said no. He stressed that he had written essay with help from his brother.

One of the things that struck me as I spoke to the student was how fluently he spoke.  Listening to his proper enunciation, I felt better about the essay. I asked him to sit down because I wanted to understand him. Based on precedent, I had preconceived that the boy was incapable of producing the essay he had written. Granted his brother helped with the essay. However, the manner in which he spoke made me realize he was more than I thought him to be.

I asked him why he was not participating in my literature class. He was always sitting in back and not getting involved with discussions. He replied that he used to be quite active in class until a previous corps member started teaching his class. He had answered a question incorrectly and the corps member proceeded to insult him in front of the class. As he said this, I felt bad for him and I understood where he was coming from.

One of the things I am realizing is that teaching brings up constant memories of my time in secondary school.  When I was in Queen’s College, I had a business studies teacher who used to tell me I was ugly. There were quite a few times when I was asked to put my face on the table because she did not want to see my face. So listening to him talking about being bullied by a teacher and being humiliated I understood his withdrawal from class participation.

Another thing I have learnt in teaching is that students need to be respected. Often times, teachers can be quick to abuse their position of authority as a means to berate and bully their students. I could have fallen into the same pattern too. However, on the first day I taught a class, one of the teachers advised me not to take a cane into the class. I believe that because I approached my students from an initial friendly position, they understand that I mean them no harm. I am very slow to anger and even slower to punish. I do not condemn them and I always answer their questions honestly.

Permanent staff members often comment that I get along well with my students, especially because of the notoriety of the class I teach. I think it is because my students are very aware of my respect for them.

by Sinmi
2012 9JEducation.org work-study

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