Some of my work in the past fills me with a mixture of humility and pride. I see, for example, my earlier videos on YouTube and cringe at the bad lighting, poor audio recordings, and use of fonts that I didn’t know would be too small on screen. I compare those videos to what I’m able to do now, and I’m proud of how I’ve improved the quality of my lessons. (There’s still so much to learn about video making!) It’s similar to what I experience when I read a copy of my first publication, a children’s story in an EFL magazine in Russia. I want to take out a red pen and start correcting my own work. I’m almost embarrassed I ever wrote such awkward phrases, and yet I’m thankful that I can say my command of English and my ability to teach it has improved over the years. I think it’s important for all of us to have enough confidence and pride to share our knowledge, but not let go of humility, the quality that reminds us we can never stop learning and trying to improve as teachers.
Over the years, many English language learners have shown great respect when addressing me as their teacher, but I wonder how many of them realize that I’m the one who is deeply humbled. A number of experiences have served as lessons in humility. Each one made me want to teach my best and offer what I felt my students deserved. To name a few:
- Having children from other countries as young as nine years old reach out after watching my videos on the Internet and write to me in English! (I didn’t even know Pig Latin at age 9.)
- Recognizing the talent of some of my students and feeling privileged to have them follow my instruction. I’ve taught English to ballroom dancers, artists, musicians, black belts in the martial arts, and others with special gifts.
- Finding out that English was one of two or three other foreign languages some students speak.
- Understanding the impact my students want to have and have had on society. For example, I’ve taught social workers, priests, and journalists.
Have you had similar experiences? Feel free to share them.