9 Lessons My Students Have Taught Me

When you first start teaching English, it’s an exciting experience. Knowing that the work you are doing is making an impact on someone’s life, and they are learning from you, there’s no better feeling in my book. On the other hand, one thing you might not expect when you start out is that you will also learn from your students. It might not be evident in the beginning, and the changes are subtle, but these lessons are invaluable. Below are the nine lessons that my students have taught me, and I am sure these lessons will help you too!



I have always cognitively understood that the only thing that is certain and definite is change. Not one second is the same as the next. The same way one can teach the same lesson to two different classes and have opposite results. It’s ok, this happens.



Sometimes you will plan the lesson perfectly. However, when you walk in the classroom, nothing seems to work. Take a second, breath, and just go with the flow. I cannot control life; life will happen. Just try to be flexible when plans change.



Coming from a country that is hugely influenced by the west, smiling too much is often interpreted as a deceitful act or something a weak and unsure person does. This is simply not true. A smile can give a student that boost of confidence and reinforce their worth. A smile to a person often says my soul acknowledges your soul.



Sometimes my students and I will do an activity, and they get it, or they don’t. Just as I am tempted to go to that “I-cannot-do-this-anymore cave”, a child will make me laugh or surprise me. This is a reminder usually when one gives up you are closer than you think to victory.



This is going to sound like hippie hogwash, but trust me I have been on various ends of this theory. Children have an unbelievable ability to sense energy. I have found when I enter a classroom filled with nerves and anxiety, that class will be disastrous. Try to be mindful of the energy you radiate as the kids will respond to it. The same is true for everyday life.



We live in a world where rushing is the norm. We often want things done faster and faster. Sometimes when I drill language with the children, I expect them to know it after a while and most do, but there is always one child lost in transit who never seems to pick much up. So often have I been surprised by that very child who, weeks later, randomly produces the language. Most things in life happen when they happen. There is no fast-forward button.



Every so often I find myself standing in the classroom thinking “a child would never do this or that back home”. This thinking is absurd! One of the many reasons I came to China was for change. I wanted to experience change; I received change and change means different. Hence it is entirely illogical to want things to be the same as back home.



Children are said to be the most honest audiences you will find. Nothing beats that feeling when kids scream your name at the top of their voices their voices, or they randomly come up to hug you. They have kick-started my journey my journey of expressing love and being able to receive love without being awkward.



Now and then a student arrives at school so miserable that it makes me pray to anyone who listens. In that split second that the parent leaves and they realise that they are with friends their mood changes completely. The misery was but a moment, and it passed. I find that as adults, we want to hold onto moments especially the miserable ones by retelling them and storing them in our minds. Acknowledge it, release it and let the moment go by.



A few weeks ago, I tried doing an activity on the interactive whiteboard, but for the life of me, it would just not work. Just as I was about to become tense one of my Small Star students said “oh, no” and the rest of the class followed suit and started laughing. I could not help but laugh with them. This situation reinforced life is a journey, I can choose to go on a ride laughing or miserable.




Eager to see what your students can teach you?

Apply to teach English in China with EF English First.



Post by Mel Jacobs, EF English First

Mel Jacobs“Mel is a simple, nomadic, plain Jane. She has a passion for causes related to women and kids. Mel also has an insatiable hunger for anything philosophy related