a story about bad grammar and non-existent punctuation and my TEFL adventures
If we think back on our school days, we usually remember a handful of teachers quite clearly, while the others fade into a mist of mediocrity. Not that they were mediocre, but they were just not exceptionally brilliant or tragically awful (memorable does not always equate to amazing). So what is it about them that lets them stay in our mind, long after we’ve left those schooldesks behind?
There are two teachers that stand out in my history: one amazing, one definitely not. Mr Klue was a white guy teaching isiXhosa, which was weird back in those days, but that’s not why I remember him.The thing about this teacher was his smell. Pretty sure every morning he drenched himself in Old Spice cologne or something equally offensive and then spent the days wafting about the classrooms, lingering around our noses while we were trying to concentrate on inye zimbini zintathu.
The other teacher is a much happier memory. My English teacher was young and controversial. She covered the walls of her classroom in posters of interesting graphic designs and famous people (including Ted Bundy). She was definitely odd but that was probably the appeal. She was not mainstream and she was completely unlike our other teachers. She let us argue with each other and think outside the box; she gave us more questions than answers.
So, the question for us now, as we are teachers ourselves, is how can we make ourselves memorable without overdosing on the smelly stuff? The answer: authenticity. Be real. Let go of the old-school teacher-student jug-cup metaphor. Even if, especially if that means admitting mistakes or ignorance. Be 21st-century and be transparent. Let your students see you as a person and work together with them as a team. When we take away the us-them distinction and focus on the us, you will find your students relate to you better and respond to you better. And remember you better.