You want me to what?

Mar 26, 2015 • Morgan Taschuk

I am a highly engaged learner. I’m that one person who’s always asking questions and participating in discussions both during and after class. I tend to do well. Hence, I was well-liked by most of my teachers. As a good student, I was often asked to help or teach slower learners, and usually I got resentment and sarcasm for my efforts. I had one teacher who took that to the extreme.

English Advanced Placement, Grade 11. We were all very good students. My teacher particularly liked me because of the ingratiating traits I mentioned earlier. One day, she pulled me aside at the beginning of the class and explained that there was a meeting she needed to go to. Could I please teach the class for her? She dragged me up to the front of the class, handed me her notes, and told the class that I was going to teach that day’s poem.

You can imagine how I felt being singled out in front of twenty of my friends and peers. These were 16 year olds. I had enough of a reputation as a teacher’s pet. I didn’t need people thinking that I thought I was as good as a teacher. As soon as she left, I went into full reputation salvaging mode. I promptly sat back in my seat, gave my teacher’s notes to the nearest student, and told them to copy them and pass them around.

This experience was my first experience as a ‘teacher’, and needless to say, it didn’t go well. I convinced myself that teaching wasn’t really my thing. It took me nearly 15 years to come back around to teaching, and to realize that it was a skill, not just something that people force you to do when you’re good at something (and then there was academia).

What re-motivated me to learn to be a teacher? Time. Being forced to teach a very patient learner who wasn’t annoyed with me when I made mistakes. Having a little bit of training in how to teach properly. Having a whole class full of excited young people who groaned when I said the workshop was done and begged for “just one more minute”!

(I think it should be said that I’m not a big fan of the whole “turn advanced learners into ad hoc helpers” approach. That’s not why those students are there, not everyone is inclined to be a teacher, and you might actually be turning them off teaching as a whole)