[LEARNING CURVE]With thanks to my gentlemen students

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[LEARNING CURVE]With thanks to my gentlemen students

I would like to dedicate this column to a group of special people who punctuated my short stay in Korea with a demanding yet enthralling time. Can you recall the last time you met a Singaporean English teacher in Korea? Are you even familiar with the location of Singapore on the world map? We are too small to be visibly significant and yet not too inconsequential to go totally unheard of.
Fortunately, my students figured out where I came from and were able to attach a meaningful concept to my background. However, good fortune seemed to shun me when I tried to convince them that this young lady can teach as well as her fellow Western counterparts despite not speaking with a familiar English or American accent, since I had never lived abroad until arriving in Korea to pursue a Korean language course. I could feel their skeptical eyes scrutinizing me from top to bottom. Also I’d never taught a class of professionals, and all men too.
However, I began to gain confidence with the passing of every lesson. I was determined not to cave in passively, as that would have been detrimental to both them and me. I wanted to show them what I had to offer ― a good command of English, a vivacious personality, and on top of everything a sincere heart to teach ― and hopefully be competent in helping them to increase their level of English proficiency.
I think my efforts began to pay off as I reached the midpoint of the three-month intermediate course. I witnessed how my students transitioned from being apprehensive to confident English learners. Those slightly contorted faces that often surfaced at the beginning of class dissipated as they slowly got the hang of what was being taught. I felt really gratified that they had begun to trust me, which was exactly what I needed. The class had to come to an end, just when we began enjoying trust and confidence in each other. Despite this, our friendship endured, especially after I heard their comments on the last day of class.
One of the most moving was, “You are the best English teacher I ever had, because you cared.” Another said, “it didn’t matter that you didn’t have an English or an American accent because we learned more from a quadrilingual teacher (I can speak English, Mandarin, Cantonese and some Korean) than a monolingual one as you appreciate the difficulty in learning a second language.”
Actually, they probably can’t imagine what a fulfilling time I had teaching them. This beautiful experience will remain one of my most treasured memories for a long time to come. Thank you gentlemen.


by Shennon Ho
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