Thursday, October 2, 2008


A few nights ago, we had a friend and his wife over for a get-together and we were talking about some work he had been doing. He mentioned that he'd had a lesson today with an interesting student who worked making subtitles for television shows and movies. Some of you may recall that I have a student who does this sort of work. I asked him what her name was and he couldn't recall. I said my student's first name and he said both her first and last name.

I should mention that sometimes my husband mentions students who have similar work or life situations as my students and I'll ask him their names. Our students have never matched and I've never really expected them to. The chances that any particular student among the thousands who take classes would happen to be taught by someone I know are very slim indeed, especially since "my student" probably only takes lessons from me in most cases. Otherwise, they're no longer "my students" and have moved on to someone else.

I've been teaching this particular student for over two years now and just spent nearly 12 hours teaching her this past month. I was shocked that she'd be looking for even more lessons and wondered if she may have decided to jump my ship for another. My immediate response was a sense of being rejected, but my logic kicked in. The truth is that students rarely abandon their long-term teachers for reasons related to the teacher. They usually do it for practical reasons. That is, they find a more convenient location, a cheaper price, or seek a different program of learning. If they really don't like your lessons, they tend not to continue after the first one, not after two years.

After rationalizing this incident, I went to bed that night and dreamed that another student, who left about a year ago because her husband transferred to another city and she got pregnant, rejected me roundly for my inadequate teaching. This illustrated to me all too well that I can attempt to mollify myself with logic, but the ego can come roaring back when I'm in no position to argue with it.

The truth is that I'm not even sure that this student has left me. My friend has been working at a place that was offering special travel English courses and she had taken so many lessons from me this past month in order to complete her work and go abroad for a vacation. In an act of kindness (after hearing about my dream), my friend looked into whether or not she'd signed up for more lessons and told me she had not. I appreciated this very much, particularly since he did it unbidden, but it doesn't fix the larger issue which is my taking these types of things too personally or feeling they reflect failure on my part.

People usually make their decisions out of self-interest or based solely on what is in their minds at the time without considering the feelings or impact on others. (This is one reason people are so rude.) We often mistakenly believe that things are related to us which have nothing to do with us. I'm more prone to relating a person's self-centered (and I mean that in a neutral way, not a pejorative one) actions to my failure than some others because I was raised to believe I was responsible for everyone's happiness and that it was my fault if things didn't go as I'd liked.

I don't know if I'll be keeping this student or not. Chances are that I will, but if I don't, it isn't going to be about me. After I internalize this idea more thoroughly, I'm hoping that my ego will keep its mouth shut while I sleep.


'badmoodguy' is mike said...

Perhaps it is just that she wants to have a large variety of lessons and would take courses from a number of teachers. This way she would get a more rounded view of English from a variety of sources.

That, or she's addicted to learning English and has to get her fix... :)

Orchid64 said...

One can only hope. ;-)

There's actually a bit of back story about this. She and a boyfriend saved money and then broke up. They split the money. She said she didn't want to buy an item that'd remind her of him so she wanted to use the money for experiences (hence the travel abroad). This could have been her using up the money she didn't plan to spend on the trip.

I'll know the situation if I don't hear from her in the next 6 weeks.