The Student & Teacher Relationship
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by Lic. Kimberlee Thorne-Waintraub
The relationship between the language student and his teacher must certainly be one of the most unique human interactions possible. It is one based on trust, rapport and being able to feel totally comfortable with the other person. After all, these two individuals get to know each other on a very personal basis.
That is why interpersonal skills are so important. In many cases, a student will confide in his teacher what he won't tell even his own family, partner, or best friend. It is their time to focus on learning another language while sharing their fears, doubts and weaknesses - and essentially, their lives. A student will often entrust his teacher with confidential information and a teacher should respect that he bears a responsibility of maintaining that confidentiality and treating it as such. What a privilege that is!
When I first started teaching English, I was ready to conquer the world and teach those people every single aspect of the language. I soon learned that not only was I totally unprepared to remedy all their language illnesses but I was also too rigid with them at the interpersonal level. It took me years to learn how to deal with so many types of people and the challenges that teaching a language can bring.
However, it did not take me long to learn that there are so many reasons why people choose to study a language and that learning English perfectly was not necessarily one of those reasons. What I thought was best for them was not always what they felt was best for them…
Yet what I did discover is that some people study because they need to talk to someone and have someone listen to them. Others study because they want to progress in their professional or personal lives. Whatever the reason is for taking language classes, there is a need out there that somehow we as teachers can discover and fill.
We are dealing with humans on the interpersonal level. And humans are subject to error and weaknesses (that includes teachers). Therefore, we as humans have our good and bad days, our ups and downs and our imperfections. As teachers we need to be sensitive to our students' needs and be flexible when they don't feel like working as hard as normal. After all, don't we also have those days when we don't feel like working either?
The bottom line here is needs. What do our students need? Are we sensitive to what they as individuals need while they attempt to learn another language? Are we in tune with what is going on inside their brains, trying to put ourselves in their shoes to help them as much as possible? Do we seek out ways to help them learn through different approaches, therefore giving them encouragement to overcome their obstacles?
When I began Small World Language Services, I wanted the focus to be exactly that - on needs. I had been with enough students to understand that they look to us as teachers to fulfill some kind of need. That goes far beyond what meets the eye. That means going deeper than the surface and finding out what they need. It requires training, experience and above all, sensitivity and perceptiveness.
The Small World teacher team has been hired based on the following criteria: First of all, they are native teachers who come with a full command of their language. Secondly, they are individuals who demonstrate a true interest in people and how to help students in different aspects of the language. Our native teachers are TESL certified and most of them hold at least a Bachelor's degree (Licenciado) in their respective fields. Many of them are professionals that have decided to give back their knowledge in the form of personalized teaching. Each teacher is unique and has different talents and abilities. But above all, they are people that have excellent interpersonal skills. Their priorities lie in making the student feel like they are being taken care of and that they are taking responsibility for their needs.
We may not be the biggest language provider in Buenos Aires, but that is not why we are in business. We are exactly as the name "Small World" implies. As you learn languages with us, you will see that this is truly a small world we live in and that we do care about your needs. We all come from different worlds, backgrounds and experiences. Hopefully your time with us will be meaningful as we explore different aspects of language in our Small World…
*Kimberlee Thorne-Waintraub is from Salt Lake City, Utah (U.S.A.). She has been an English teacher for over 10 years and founded Small World Language Services in 2004. She is a teacher trainer and performs translation and editing work and also works as a Project Manager.