Whenever I feel like scolding my students for something trivial they’ve done, I always remind myself that I’m probably looking at a future Nobel Prize winner or a well-known writer. I imagine that each of those naughty little creatures is a potentially famous figure that may change the world. Or,
even worse, one day, they might become teachers themselves and they may end up sitting next to me in the staffroom. You never know.
When I started teaching many years ago, generally, the quality of English teaching was desperate. After the Velvet Revolution and the fall of communism, English teachers were in demand so everybody with some knowledge of English (by some I mean very, very little) could deliver English lessons. I’m not saying there were no highly qualified English teachers around at that time but in some cases, to put it bluntly, the teacher was only a few coursebook units ahead of their students.
These days, it’s almost the same but for a very different reason. The quality of English teaching has improved tremendously. The thing is that although we teachers always have a head start, with all the technology and social media available, our students will easily catch up and they will always be on our tails.
I sometimes wonder how much ‘better’ the teacher must be in order to do his or her job well. By better, I mean more proficient and knowledgeable. Deep down I know it’s a pretty useless question because it’s not feasible to measure how much ahead of their students one actually is. You can test your proficiency level or your vocabulary size, yes, but that doesn’t tell you much really. Even if your scores are higher, there will always be stuff your students are better at than you are. So, generally speaking, are they better or are you? And how much better and for how long?
One way or another, the fact that we are more knowledgeable than your students should not make us feel superior (don’t forget about the Nobel Prize winners!). However, it can help us feel more confident. And confidence is one of the prerequisites of being a good teacher, I think. That’s why we should never stop learning if we want to be ahead of the game. It looks selfish but it isn’t at all because as we get better and more proficient, our students do too – either because we pull them or because they push us towards greater achievements.