I’ve been a teacher for nearly 30 years so if there’s anything I can tell you with some authority is this: Every student is different.

Yes, some of the mistakes will be the same, some of the old jokes too, but regarding personality and traits of character they will be as different as the colors of the rainbow.

One thing we always are reminded of as teachers as to have empathy for our students. And we learn to respect and love them as our students. Unfortunately quite often it is a one way street with some of them.

Now, let me tell you about two students in particular – let’s call them Gilberto and Manuel (not their real names).

Gilberto is a very hard working student and has been with me for some years climbing from B1 to C1 level and in the process developing his skills and confidence in using English as a foreign language. He tries to do all his homework and despite the fact he has classes only once a week (60 minutes) his progress is quite visible. We’ve covered two advanced business books: Market Leader – (a quite good book but it got dated quickly) and Intelligent Business – (not a very intelligent book, by the way, really poorly edited including even some typos).

Gilberto sees the teacher as a simple provider of input without any relevant feelings. I must be available to reschedule his cancelled classes. He refuses to pay for the times he goes on vacation or for any missed class. Every payment he makes it sound as if he would be doing me a favor. Mind you, he likes me – otherwise he would have stopped years ago – but I’m simply a language source to him. Gilberto expects the teacher to be flexible and change class day and time on a whim, sometimes morning, other times afternoon or evening.

[An update] But he also showed professional politeness and empathy – he needed a 5 day grace period to pay for his classes and he first asked me earlier in the month if it would be ok, and if I had any objections to let him know and he’d find another way to pay on time. Of course, I agreed to the 5 day delay.

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The teacher is more than just a source of information

Manuel has also been with me for some years – highly committed and focused – rarely did his homework though, with the exception of some texts for translation. We’ve never used a course book – he’s C1 – he likes to read – so he is often reading all sorts of business, science and philosophy books. Manuel also sees the teacher as a provider of input but this past week he showed he sees me as a professional who can be given appreciation through a day off or some additional pay. He has a problem of “forgetting” to pay me (every month) but to offset that he always pays an additional amount (some R$ 50 extra to cover for any inconveniences caused by the payment delay). On the other hand, Manuel apologizes when he can’t make it to his scheduled class and if I have no other available time he understands and moves on.

[An update] But regarding payment, Manuel never pays on time and always “forgets” it… sometimes he pays over 1 month late … and every time I bring it up he says “Oh I will pay you right after our class tonight” – and it never happens. To be fair, he usually throws in an additional R$ 50 for the delay… but that’s not the agreement.

DISTANCE LEARNING CLIP ART in 2021 | Distance learning, Gym games for kids,  Teacher cartoon
When pricked teachers also bleed

Now paraphrasing what Shakespeare so skillfully wrote in the Merchant of Venice -“If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”. – (Act III, scene I).” Yes, teachers and students need a real and respectful relationship even if separated by a screen.

Happy teachings,