Yesterday, while cycling and listening to the podcast The Good Ancestor, I heard the author Glennon Doyle, put into words something I often think about. Referring to her parents – who are both teachers – she said that her admiration for them came from the fact that they are teachers because they are students.
That’s exactly how I feel. The reason why I love teaching so much is because I think of myself as an eternal student. I think the moment I stop wanting to learn, life will lose its meaning. Truly.
Those who know me well, know that my favourite feeling in the world is the moment when I can say “ah, I had no idea”. I love that moment of total realisation that I knew nothing about something or that a certain way of seeing things is new to me.
Doyle also mentioned how much she loves people who are not sure. Who always feel like they can dig deeper. As a teacher of the English language, I can constantly feel in class how students want rules. Clear rules and nothing to deviate from those rules. There is so much I don’t know and I am a big believer in saying “I really don’t know. ‘ll find out more about this and get back to you”. At times, I can feel a slight moment of tension when I say this.
I do think – and maybe I am wrong about this – that people see teachers as people who should know everything about their subject matter. I don’t. And I know for a fact that no language teacher does either. All the native speaker teacher colleagues I’ve had in the past use the time in the teachers’ room exchanging ideas and sharing how they have no idea what this or that means or how to explain it.
I carry around a notebook where I write down all the new words I learn. I love words. I love introducing new words into my speech. It’s not easy.
Most of all, I’m curious. My daugher is now two years old and I can’t wait for her to be at the stage where she asks “why” all the time. For now, she asks “mum, what’s this?”. In the past, I’ve had periods of intense depression and a family history of people who tended to be extremely inwards and negative. About 20 years ago, I had to make a choice to train my mind in order to fight this genetic tendency. I did many things to train my mind and I recall that one of them was to pay attention to people. At times, this was incredibly difficult because a deep negative mind tried to push me towards total disconnection. But I pushed and pushed. And here I am now.
In the past few years, I have observed a similar ssense of disconnection as a more constant state in most people. In my conversation classes, I find that it not easy for people to show true interest for the lives of others. Same with asking questions and being curious about what others think. This even manifests itself in the difficulty in creating sentences referring to he or she.
As part of my courses, I ask people to consider this approach to language speaking:
As with any learning, I believe this is the key to being a little less self-obsessed and, consequently, to relax about our own mistakes. Staying curious about others has saved me time and time again. Every single time I have found a joy like no other. I hope this continues.