Tag Archives: humanity

On feeling less than human

There’s something about the weary cycle of teaching mostly deaf ears that makes me feel less human than before.  I realize that in teaching English, I can’t impart English to my learners as anything more than a language tool, even though I love English because of its literature, and not because it is a tool to further myself.  It’s useful for that, yes, but that’s not why I love it.  It’s not realistic or useful to teach poetry and short stories to 12-year-olds who reply to questions like “how are you?” with “it’s a SUNNY day!”  And it’s hard to teach something that you love when you have to remove all the parts that you most love out of it.  Whenever I complain about students who don’t care about my classes, I’m not complaining because I think they should love English.  I don’t expect them to, and only the students who have a brain and a heart for the beauty of languages will really love learning English at all.  English is compulsory for them, and they’re not all going to like it.  What I complain about is that they are disrespectful to me as a teacher and as a person.  Because I speak a different language, and because I’m a foreigner, I feel less than human in their eyes.  I’m an oddity with big eyes, light hair, and light skin that says strange things and makes them pronounce such ludicrous sounds as “th” and “v” correctly.  In a foreign teacher’s class, the expectation is to play games and watch English movies, not learn tongue-twisters, practice speaking, or learn about the culture behind the language.  So every time I show up to my 21 Junior classes without a movie, or without a game that is riveting enough for even the back row to stop lambasting each other with pencil cases, then I am not cool.  My class is too boring, and they let me know it with their behavior.  From this, I’ve deducted that my role at this school is to be an entertainer, and that if I try to teach much substance, then I’ll lose the attention and respect of my students.

So I can’t impart a love for English to every student, because they’re young, and all they’re concerned about is the next test, and hiding that they’re wearing braces, and tripping as they gallop to their classrooms (oh, the awkwardness of middle school).  Some of them want to use English later in life, and some of them won’t.  That’s okay.  So I stick to my guns (i.e., Oral English doesn’t mean movie time), and do what I can to show them how to use English in real life.  And I’m trying not to tie my humanity up in whatever value my students place on me, my time, or my classes.  It’s just not worth it, and it’s not an accurate picture of who I am.  So, I talk with my friends, read books, and read poetry after classes and on the weekends.  I remember that I’m just a pilgrim on earth (and here), and I won’t be forever. I remember whose child I really am.  I remember that it doesn’t matter what people think of me outwardly, but what’s in my heart.  And then I feel human again.

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