Psychological Accounting for Future Teachers

Sometimes, a powerful event no matter how cathartic can stop us from doing the things we should.

I’ve been meaning to write up this post for awhile. Since Tuesday actually. Tuesday is the day when I tutor my adult migrants English. And on that day I was presented with a conundrum  Having taught and kept in correspondence with my student for two months, the thought of losing a student always weighed in my mind – but never prepared me for what was about to come.

Ever since I finished training at the end of November, I was aware of the many success stories that people had with past tutors. I had a clear trajectory of where I wanted my student to be, fitting their needs and helping out whatever they needed. I was going to make sure their experience and my guidance will lead to their success story.

Having tutored before, there is a massive responsibility to be invested and provide the best kind of feedback while remaining positive and motivated to pull through even at the hardest times. Even when a person struggles with the meaning of a word, the concept or a mathematical formula, you plow on through and go over it as many times as you can. You want them to be able to work on it on their own and give them the tools to reach to a level they never have expected of themselves. You are the eternal listener, the firm but fair assessor and the figure they admire, respect and build their knowledge upon. They depend on you and every word you say counts.

The reason why I hold myself to these standards is because I know what it is like to have a bad tutor. Tutoring isn’t just a job. It’s everyday life. We all act as tutors for each other, sharing knowledge, holding expectations and respecting others. We teach each other new things everyday and we learn from each other. To this day, I’ve avoided the thought of learning how to drive from a past trauma of nearly hitting a dog during my last lesson and being blasted with a torrent of verbal insults that had come from years of passive-aggression by family members. I cried that night – knowing that on my birthday where I was meant to be celebrating and be “happy”, I was met with verbal assaults by family members about how “pathetic” it was of me to attempt to learn how to drive (even though I was forced to by their demands). I refrained from talking to anyone and to this day no one bats an eyelid or feels remorse for taking their years of anger from their own lives and putting it on me from their own devious construction.

Nowadays, I’m still bombarded “offering” me driving lessons, but I reject them. I understand in the adult world, driving is an essential source and a liberating experience  And my street cred as a young male drops to pretty unbearable depths yet the lessons I’ve had have only accentuated the fear of the road and my desire not to engage in learning a skill. The fact that I’m not a winner, too stupid, a disappointment were the nicest of things being said about me in the household because of refusing to learn (I don’t flat out refuse, I get a nervous breakdown whenever I’m in a car now near the front).

Learning that I was accepted to become a tutor and during training, I didn’t want to repeat the cycle. The cycle of having someone dependent on you or unexpectedly being thrust into a situation and making it all about myself and not looking at this as an opportunity to vent out my frustrations with my life in the world. It was about the student. It was about being the best I can and putting aside everything that was wrong with my life great effort, optimism and promise into something that was right. Every day, even on my bad days I smiled and put in all my effort for them to succeed and only ensured and supported their potential and motivation rather than belittle their flaws like my family did to me. I write up lesson plans and goals I want to achieve with them and every week for 2 hours I’d sign off and make sure both me and the students get closer to the goals we want to achieve.

People in times of vulnerability or dependence really pick up on every action you do and every word you say. With vulnerability comes sensitivity and it’s best not to damage that in any way, as you may feel emotionally better venting out frustration, any kind of progress for the learner is stifled through the tension that you’ve created and affected.

Next week marks possibly the last session I have with my student. Through a pretty unconventional and unexpected event – my student was offered to be fast-tracked to a course that would help him find a job rather than fulfill 5+ more sessions with me. It didn’t strike me that my role as a tutor was coming to an end so soon. It was a little jarring and heartbreaking to realize it going to end so soon. Looking helpless as he did, he asked for my opinion. I knew what was right for him and didn’t hesitate to say “take the course”. A 5 day intensive course for the next three months. He would eventually get a certificate, be guaranteed a job and training to do that. It was better than what I could promise him.

And that was the moment. The impartiality I had to convey to ensure he did take it. The cold make sure that he went for success rather than emotion. And the fact that he was moving onto better and greater things and that it could possibly be over.

It was that moment I realized one of the tragedies of being a teacher. And one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever felt. And I make it an aim to always strive to be better and I would do it all again.

Because something tragic doesn’t make it any less beautiful.



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