365 Things to Look Forward to–Number 37: New Students

37. New Students

When I was a student myself, I was always a little excited about meeting new students because I felt that I could make new friends who didn’t already have their biases about me. Some of them have become good friends, some moved on to other friendships. But that didn’t stop me from learning more about them and being a good friend for as long as it lasted.

As a teacher, I always look forward to meeting new students. I think it is one of the most exciting things about teaching. Every year or term or semester, whenever classes change over, I am excited about who I will meet, what my students will be like, what will they know or not know, what I can learn about them, and what I can learn from them. Then I can tailor my teaching style and lessons to individual and group needs. Even my classroom management style varies, depending on the students.

Yesterday, I met several new students. Well, 10 of them were most likely the first and last meeting, because they belonged to a class that I was substituting for. Still, in one short afternoon, I learned so many things about my students that even they themselves did not know about each other after sharing several classes together! It was a very enlightening and interesting afternoon, to say the least. As a matter of fact, I found out that in China, Chairman Mao is considered a hero. Very interesting.

The one student I met whom I will be meeting on a regular basis over the next six months at least, is a middle-aged Chinese lady who, as chance would have it, works at the same store that I work in! I know from working with her, that she was terribly frustrated with the school she was attending to learn English because after a year, she still could barely speak proper English and could barely understand others speaking. It was more frustrating that she could not do the regular work at the store and instead, is given menial cleaning jobs, again because she could not speak very well. To top it off, she was an accomplished nurse and businesswoman in China, but could practice neither nursing nor business in Canada, again because of her difficulty communicating in English. I had advised her to go the the Newcomers’ Association and explain her problem because I am a volunteer EAL tutor for their program and I knew that she could get help from them for one-on-one tutoring.

I suspected she might be the student I was to meet when the program coordinator started telling me about her. Wasn’t it a pleasant surprise when, as we approached the library, we saw her from a distance and, upon seeing us, she began jumping up and down with a huge smile on her face and a whole lot of excitement as she ran to me and gave me a big hug! The program coordinator was quite pleased, I could see, because he could tell it would be a good match. I, on the other hand, was happy, as well, because I could get to know her better and help her out.

Such encounters make meeting new students a truly fulfilling experience.

I look forward to the school opening for the additional reason that I will be meeting new students each time I substitute in a class. Even if I don’t get the chance to know them very well, because most of them will be with me for only one class in one day and I might never see them again, 40 minutes to a day is more than enough time to learn so many things about new students.

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