The Shocking Truth about Working with Difficult Students


Budapest, Hungary :: Széchenyi Chain Bridge

Time is passing slowly.

I am looking at my watch far too often.

The lucky thing is it is an online lesson without camera.

I know I should have respect.

But I do.

I really respect him. Many other people would never do the same. They would just say it is too difficult but in reality they are just too lazy. He is not lazy. He takes responsibility for his life and his future. And he is ready to make efforts to make it a better future.

This is a quality I really respect.

Responsibility and effort.

It is his first foreign language and he is not a child.

He is not university educated but makes his living with his hand. He is very friendly and polite. I really respect him and learn from his life.

But time is still passing slowly. My own problems are running around my head. I am trying to concentrate. I have corrected the same mistake at least 40 times today and I know at the end of the lesson he will make the same mistake.

Does not matter. Let’s forget perfectionism and expectations.

Who cares about the tenses? How many people can communicate with one tense. Maybe I should change my techniques. Oh dear!

When I was doing my teacher’s training many years ago, my supervisor told me once that teaching equalled life-long learning. We meet and speak to people on a daily basis. We teach them English and learn about their lives in return. Best payment, isn’t it?

Every student is another life, another story, another world.

I sometimes feel that as a teacher I am also an actress. I put on another costume with every student, every lesson and take part in another life. I do not mean identification with them. It is more like taking their hands and dance the dance of their lives for a short period of time with them. It is like being on a journey through life.

Of course some roles are easier and some roles are more difficult. First of all, we should examine why we find them difficult. The results show a lot about our challenges in our lives. And the understanding brings us closer to our harmony and peace. We develop patience and respect, the latter of which is the key element.

We should take their lives as a whole with its hardships and pleasures, opportunities and limitations. And then do the maximum we can. Our best.

Let me give you an example. I was a young teacher of Business English at that time. I worked really hard to learn about business to be able to deliver the material. I had a group of 18-year-olds coming from all over the world. There was a girl from a country with difficult circumstances. She was different from the others and a bit slower than the others. She had more problems to follow the course and do the tests. After two or three years maybe, just before her graduation we started chatting and she told me thank you for the teaching and told me her story. She was much older than the others and she had a husband and two kids back at home. She had put together all her money for the degree to get a proper job to support her family later. Different backgrounds, different lives. The key is respect.

Or let’s take the car mechanic who is learning a language for the first time in his life. He is motivated to get a job abroad and start a better life. His income is relatively small yet he spends on the lessons and studies more diligently than many more talented people.

Take them all as separate lives, separate stories, separate roles. Be open and ready to help them and to learn from them. That is when the really exciting story starts.

Source: via Al on Pinterest


Moreover, never judge the value of your job, just do your best.

Years after I finished that group at the business college with the bunch of disruptive kids I met one of them in a shopping centre. The girl smiled at me and said: ’Teacher, do you remember me? I loved your classes we learned so much.’ I had tears in my eyes as I remembered how hard those lessons were for me and how useless I felt my work was. So never judge the value of your job. If you just reach one person in a way they need your job has been done. That’s all.

Last but not least be authentic, be yourself. Show the respect and the genuine curiosity towards the other human being. This attitude is always welcome. People are grateful and open more towards both you as a person and towards the subject you teach.

Develop respect, patience, understanding.

Never judge, neither them nor yourself.

Be open to learn about life.

Be authentic.

And allow yourself to have a bad day sometimes. Basically you are also a human being.

Don’t forget you are in the focus. They look at you. Watch you. Every gesture matters. Every word. Respect this. Respect your profession. Respect yourself.

For me this is being a teacher.

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