"To teach is to learn twice."
This is one of my favorite quotes. I might even change that and say that to teach is to learn thrice, or four times, or even more than that. Because when you prepare to teach something (or if you find yourself in a predicament wherein you have the ability to deliver some knowledge) you've already gone through the process of learning what you will teach. Personal experience from when you wanted a green thumb but realized your thumbs will never be anything but flesh-toned may have taught you when to water plants, what kind of seeds to use, when to harvest, etc. Then when another person asks if anyone knows about gardening, you have something to share (I love a good metaphor). For me, preparing to teach looks like creating lesson plans and games I want to use in the classroom. My issue, however, is that I have never formally taught as the main teacher in a classroom - and as much as I can try to learn from waygook.org or other sites focused on the assimilation of foreign ESL teachers, nothing can compare to being in that class, with those kids, understanding exactly what they need.
This is another way you learn via teaching; your students (either directly or indirectly) will let you know if something works for them, or if it's a damn dud. Shoot, I've seen both those situations and have learned that kids are like dogs, or sharks, or any animal that smells blood and pounces. If they sense that their teacher is nervous, or sweating, or unprepared, or scared, or bored, or unhappy, or [insert any negative characteristic here], they will either emulate it, or use it against you. Honestly, I was prompted to write this post because it was the day I had taught my first class in what I think was the format the Korean teachers use here at my school. I had no idea what the hell I was doing, what buttons to press on the computer, the timing of everything - nada! But I maintained a smile. Every time I fumbled or something I said was indiscernible by the class. I would laugh and say "well anyway!" or "nevermind!" and because I was laughing or joking, some of the students started to as well. That's all I need: for one or two students to pick up what I'm putting down; to be on my side while I catch my bearings. I don't know why they are so sweet to me, because I've heard some real horror stories of Korean students calling their black teachers "monkey teacher" or saying they smell, and just not listening to them in class. Man, I would be devastated if the former two happened to me. I'm not strong! But none of that happens and that's God working, I'm telling you!
These kids are teaching me how to be patient and more yielding, as young students should do. Because if I'm not a patient teacher, all my classes are in trouble. They are smarter than I ever was at their age. I can't remember having anything going on in this noggin at age 10 save for what was going to be for lunch and if I could buy a cookie. The way I see my students' cognitive abilities at such an early age is inspiring - it makes me want to challenge myself to challenge them more, and truly prepare them for the world. Let's see what I can do with my time here.
Until next time, folks.