This conversation took place in a cafe in Yokohama the other day with a private student of mine.
Student: So, what do you think makes you a good English teacher?
Me: At my job? Or with you?
Student: Is there a difference?
Me: Well, yeah…
Student: What”s the difference?
Me: With you, I’m actually trying to help you improve your English speaking ability and listening comprehension…And I think I’ve been somewhat successful because…er…well, I’m patient, and I set small accomplishable goals for you which builds up your confidence, I think. Your biggest problem when we started, if you remember, was…well, besides pronunciation…was your confidence. But, now, I think you can hold your own with any native English speaker and won’t be stymied by a lack of confidence…
Student: You really think so?
Me: Oh yeah! You’re leaps and bounds beyond where you were 3 years ago when we first started.
Me: My pleasure…
Student: What about with your Junior High school students?
Me: Well, that’s a different story…
Student: Ee!? You’re not trying to improve their English ability and listening skills?
Me: Well, kinda… but actually, no.
Student: Why not?
Me: Well, I like to set small accomplishable goals for myself as well…
Student: What do you mean?
Me: Getting my kids to actually speak and hear English…most of them…is virtually impossible. So, it’s no longer my goal.
Student: So, you don’t think you’re a good teacher with the kids?
Me: I do, but I don’t teach them English.
Students: Ee! What do you teach them?
Me: I teach them not to be afraid of people who don’t look like them, that speak a different language and have different ideas, and do things a little differently.
Me: Yeah, I teach them how to interact with people they wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to interact with. And I think every student that spends three years with me will go out into the world with little or no fear of the un-alike. To me that is much more important than whatever English they might be able to retain from my lessons. I mean, most of them will never use English in their lives…but what I teach them will probably make them more inclined to open their minds…if I can even approach achieving that goal, then I feel I’ve done a world of good. I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile. And the students benefit, as well. It’s a win-win.
Student: I agree. You are a really good teacher.