Teaching, Relationship, and Stories

I just finished taping five brief interviews with graduate students in the ELT program here at Georgia State. They came with some prepared notes, but in conversation they quickly moved into the power and passion of their profession: helping people learn not just to function, but to understand and be understood, to know and be known. Several spoke of the moment when a student, adult or child really got it – one of a Somali mom so happy to know the difference between capital letters and small, so she could keep pace with her six children; another of a child who visited the Georgia Aquarium, frustrated to have no words to describe the fantastical animal he’d just seen… but not giving up, trying and trying to tell his teacher of the marvelous creature, until finally, over lunch, he presented his sandwich, carefully pulled at, bit by bit, until it looked like the sawfish that had so taken his imagination.

Creating an environment where people can learn requires a relationship, a kind of intimacy, a recognition of the commonality between teacher and student. This is the best part of my job – helping others tell their stories. When it works best, the technology falls away and it’s human beings sharing with each other. That’s what teachers do. They tell stories, and the good ones help their students know their own stories so they can tell them too.

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