Teaching Teacher

I don’t remember the boy’s name anymore. It was more than twenty years ago and I’ve had so many students since then, it’s hard to keep track (remember; be aware of something).

He sat in the last row (line of seats), had somewhat unkempt (not combed; not neat) blond hair, and was slightly overweight. That I remember for sure.

I was a student teacher (someone training or preparing to be a teacher) at Humboldt High School, one of St. Paul’s – how shall I say it? – “lowest performing” schools (schools where students did poorly). I was assigned (given the task) to teach a Spanish I class to a group of seventh, eighth, and ninth graders (roughly 13- to 15-year-olds).

I was far from (not even close to) being a very good teacher during the 12 weeks I spent at Humboldt, but no one jumped out the second-story (floor or level) windows of the classroom, so that, I thought, was something (a small accomplishment).

The boy in question (who I’ve been talking about) never seemed to like my class. In fact, he was the kind of student who always has this somewhat (slightly) impatient (not willing to wait for something) or even hostile (angry; mean) look on his face.

Worse still (even worse), he had the habit (would often) of asking questions almost in the form of a challenge (trying to disagree with or defeat someone), as if to say, “Really? I don’t think so.”

Teachers, like mothers, are supposed to love all of their children equally, but we all know this isn’t true. There were students whom I really disliked, and who I am sure disliked me.

Well, I disliked this kid. As a new teacher, I didn’t appreciate (like) the fact that he was always asking questions. I thought he was trying to trip me up (make me make a mistake) or show the rest of the students how dumb I was.

I answered his questions, of course, and tried to smile as I did so (as I answered them). But inside (in my thoughts), I wished (hoped) that he would just stop showing up (coming) to class.

Finally, my 12 weeks at Humboldt drew to a close (ended), and I had my last class with my students. We had a little party, I think, and I said good-bye to the students.

As class ended, everyone slowly left the room except for the boy. When everyone else had gone, he walked up to me and gave me an envelope with a card inside. He just smiled, said “Thanks a lot!” and left.

Standing alone now in the classroom, I opened the envelope and pulled out (removed) the card. It said something along the lines of (something like this, but not exactly):

Dear Teacher,
You are the best teacher I have ever had.
Thank you!

As you can imagine, I was stunned (really surprised). I stood there speechless (without words), amazed at how wrong I was about this boy.

I never saw the student again. My time as a student teacher ended, and the following year I took a job at another school.

Sometimes we just don’t know what is going on in the minds of those around us. We think we know, but we do not.  If we are lucky, we are given the chance to discover just how wrong we are before it’s too late.


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34 Responses to Teaching Teacher

  1. Dan says:

    Hello everyone,

    Thank you Jeff for this very nice story, which is also a lesson.

    Something is missing though, The Picture.

    I am putting on my spokesperson hat for the ESLpod blog users to ask if we can see a picture of that time. Please!?


  2. Dan says:

    Me again.

    I was thinking about Jeff’s story and I must admit that I often have the nasty habit of judging people so quikly.
    Even though I know that’s wrong I or better say my mind does that. I am trying to stop that.
    It is not easy because we are so used to that, I mean judging everything since we are kids.
    Anyway, I am working on it. The tool I am using is Meditation.


  3. emiliano says:

    So nice story Jeff, thank you.

    Usually being a grown up student I use to ask a lot of questions to the teachers, without any bad intention
    It was only to be sure I could understand everything but also because if I could get a good explanation I don´t
    need to study at home afterward.
    I could remember the first time a meet Cuca in a academy where we were preparing to get a better job inside
    the bank she was just a little astonished because I didn´t write anything or took any notes about the problems
    and so.
    She told me….Why do you not take notes about the emplanation or how to resolve the exercises?
    and I said to her: because I prefer to understand now as once at home I never look to the notes, in fact I have
    not time to look at them.

    Once we were a couple she remember me this even and also the fact she was pleased with my answer as she
    didn´t look to the notes also and she thought it was a good intelligent actitude by my side.
    May be it was the begining of a good very good love romance ….who knows?

    Thanks a lot Jeff. emiliano

  4. Peter says:

    I m all welled up chief
    Beautiful story you got there. Thanks for sharing it with us. Perfect timing  for narrating it. 
     U know why ? Christmases  time is closing in. Subsequently ,love and passion is in the air.
    Very attractive story.

    It is so true!
    U never know what is in the mind of people unless you are a mind reader. Don’t beat yourself up Jeff. People all do it. People, at least a large number of us , judge others  based on their facial expressions.

    I never make those pre-assumptions. I never trust my judgement. 
    U know what I mean
    It happens more often than not  that You are talking with sb  and he/she is day dreaming about sth else,or their mind is wondering off. Well, inadvertently the reflection of those inner thoughts appears in their faces and you take it as a reaction to what you are discussing at the moment. 

  5. Peter says:

    Dear Jeff,
    I have a question for u
    To teach a Spanish 1 or Spanish 2 or 101 or sth to that effect you must have some credentials for it. U must be a licensed Spanish teacher to teach at school. So , you have some sorts of college degree in Spanish as well.
    Man , it is sth

  6. Luiz Henrique says:

    Nice text, Jeff.
    When i read that, I could heard your voice. This is funny!


  7. Peter says:

    Dear Jeff,
    You were a great teacher during the period at Humboldt highschool. I m sure of it.
    And ,most certainly ,you were a great professor for your students at the university. As you are the greates proffosor for us at Eslpod.

    You are just being modest.

    Beautiful story My dear professor. IT learned sth new almost in every single like of the story.

    One more time you have outdone yourself.

    Thanks plenty boss

  8. Annie says:

    I was touched, really.
    I can imagine the whole picture vividly while I was reading, I can capture all the feelings Jeff had.
    It’s a pity Jeff did not have a chance to give that boy a hug…

  9. Nermin Eminova says:

    Hello,teacher.I agree.”Sometimes we just don’t know what is going on in the minds of those around us”. I’ll use it as a quote by my teacher.Thank you.

  10. Nermin Eminova says:

    I also agree with the boy.” Dear Teacher!You are the best English teacher I have ever had”.

  11. vj says:

    thanks for the great story!
    what I am trying to say is: that was written in a good way, I mean: I feel good to read that
    sorry , my english is not good

  12. Vivien says:

    Hi Jeff,
    This is a quiet and simple, while beautiful story. I am like watching a movie while learning English, not even being aware of reading another language. Well done, Jeff!

  13. Dan says:

    Nice to read from you Emiliano.

    Let me say finally! I thought about everything of you even you passed away!
    How are you feeling? and Gtufo?.

    You have got a beautiful love story with Cuca there.

    Wish you the best and write more.

    Ciao! Dan.

  14. Betty says:

    Dear Jeff

    It is a very touching story you gave us above.

    The title “Teaching Teach” shows us that you really are a very modest teacher. You said your student had taught you something, am I right?

    Many of your students in this website are or were teachers. As teachers ourselves we fully understand your feelings when you discovered the student actually appreciated you, as opposed to your perception of the relationship.

    You have demonstrated your humbleness from the last sentence of your article: “If we are lucky, we are given the chance to discover just how wrong we are before it’s too late”.

    I want to reiterate my deep appreciations for all the teachers here – Jeff, Lucy and Warren with the following contents inside the card from Jeff’s student:

    Dear Teachers,
    You are the best teachers I have ever had.
    Thank you!

    Betty 🙂

  15. Silvia says:

    What a very nice history, much to learn from your experience.

  16. Maryam says:

    In every day of my life, maybe every second of my life, I judge other people’ behaviors in a way that is wrong.
    Surprisingly, I think what I think about that person is the right thing. Then I get angry and upset because of something that I make and is not true.
    The only thing that I can do to prevent myself from judging in that way is to remind myself some real stories like what you told us.
    I hope I and anybody who suffers this kind of illness, judging other people, can stop doing that.
    Thanks a lot to remind us that important thing.

  17. Bruno Aguiar says:

    Hello Jeff! FANTASTIC once more!
    First i’d like to compliment ou all for the fantastic job that you all have been doing for all of us!
    I love English and i’ve just become an English Teacher…still in the experience time!
    I’m working hard and hopefully, one day, i’ll get some of these compliments from the students!
    It’s been a pleasant chore looking up here as often as possible and i must admit that your Podscats and also your Blog have been helping me out in my English learning! Keep on doing this hard work!
    So, Congratulations for beeing such a FANTASTIC Teacher and also a “Podcaster”


  18. Tania says:

    Hi! Oh, dear Emiliano! I have been thinking about you… Why don’t you write? Why don’t you access our blog?
    I am so happy you are with us again.
    No news, good news.

    Best wishes to you and to your family,


  19. Oscar says:

    Thanks for sharing this story Dr. Jeff. What a great lesson!

  20. Vito says:

    Really absorbing and very very fascinating.

    Thank you very much, Jeff, I appreciate your “story telling” talent.

    Now I pray forgive me, I should leave, the great deeds await.

    Have a nice weekend and do not get into troubles.

  21. emiliano says:

    Some times life is quite complicated despite all our efforts to be in good form or have god health
    that is not possible and we can do so little about the matter.
    The only we can do is praying having the hope of being better some day or not, who knows?. But
    it is neccesary to have enough patience just to live one day after another awaiting some better

    This year has been more or less this way to me, even now I am not quite well but I try to fight
    as much as possible to going out from the hole.

    Ja, Ja, quite good Dan, I do think I was going to die last summer and after passing the problem
    it was awaiting for me the worst…..a big deep depression as consequence of my bad health condition.

    If a person live enough he or her is going to pass through good and bad moments, such is life.

    This year has not been a good year for me and for Cuca, but our heads are going little by little
    out from the water.
    Still in treatment for the depression but I hope to be better soon, with new stories to tell
    here, the best place to write and to learn.
    Dear Tania thank you very very much, I read the Blog but have not humor or mind to write
    anything. I do think you are my friend that needs some explanation for your kind words
    to me the same as the friends emiliano has here.

    All my love to every one of you.

  22. emiliano says:

    my dear Gatufo is O.K., despite I didn´t give him too much care or love
    the cat loves me absolutely without any kind of reserve against my
    not loving attitude to him.
    I do think the cat knows I was ill and he has patience to await better
    attitude from emiliano.

    Gatufo is a gift from heaven.

  23. Dan says:

    I am so sorry to read that Emiliano.

    If it can be of any help look at this video on youtube titled “Only The Body Is Sick”

    I think it is worth listening what this monk has to say and it also a funny guy.


  24. Peter says:

    Hi dear senior Emiliano .
    I m refering to former Emoliano who had been with Eslpod way before every one of us that is why I greeted him by “senior.”

    It is sad that I m here that you are not in the mood to join the gang on blog

    Hope to see u up and about very soon

    You will pull it through bro

    Hang in there my old cyber friend. you can tough it out my friend.

    The new year is around the corner . I will be more than happy to see you around the blog like those old good days.

    Looking forward to seeing more of you around the blog in the year to come.



  25. Penny liu says:

    Dear Jeff,

    I love the way you told the story: simple and touching. I wish one day I could write stories just in this way.

    One question: I don’t understand the title “Teaching Teacher”.
    Is the full sentence “A boy teaches a teacher something valuable”?

    Thank you!
    By the way, I really like your voice in all the podcast!

  26. Armando Mckin says:

    Nice story!! Dr. Jeff, I algo hear your voice while I am reading, that’s funny!! I am from Guatemala in Central America and I’ve been following your podcasts and blog for more than 3 years, and this is one of the best ways I have found to learn English, I think I have improved my English, so I would like to thank you for your excellent job and also Dr. Lucy for her wonderful scritps,

    Best wishes to you from Guatemala

  27. Armando Mckin says:

    I am sorry, I also hear your voice while I am reading, I think my keyboard is not working properly, ha haha

  28. Tania says:

    Hi! Dear Emiliano, I am so glad you are with us again…
    Much, much health…


  29. Tania says:

    Hi! After “blues icons” (B.B.King, Buddy Guy), now one of the “rock icons”, Jimi Hendrix.
    Years ago, I had a friend who often told me about Jimi Hendrix and his music. But I have never been curious to listen to him on You Tube.
    So I am glad to listen to you telling us about Jimi Hendrix life and music…
    I have listened to him on You Tube and I saw he performed together with B.B.King and “Summertime” with Janis Joplin.
    I remember you told us about Janis Joplin, a “rock icon”too, in English Cafe 213/2009 and Lucy told us about “The 27 Club”.
    And Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin died at 27 years old.

  30. Tania says:

    Hi! Most of all Jimi Hendrix songs I like “House of Rising Sun”.
    His song”Hear My Freedom” looks strange to me. I was curious to know what means his freedom.

    “The tears burnin’
    Tears burnin’ me
    Tears burnin’me
    Way down in my heart
    Well, you know it’s too bad
    Gonna leave this town.”

    A strange sound of freedom. Maybe gonna leave this life.
    Anyway all “rock icons” seem to be from another life, from another planet… And they choose the death.

  31. emiliano says:

    Dear Peter, don´t worry my friend, little by little I am going better.
    Do you know something?

    Laura, my daughter has been in Canada last summer on holidays, she
    went from Copehaguen to Vancouver and afterward did a trip of 20
    days around British Columbia seeing some National Parks, doing
    trekking with a group of 15 people.

    She was really happy in Canada doing the trip of my dreams when
    I was a young man.

    Thanks a lot Peter. emiliano

  32. Tania says:

    Hi! I am reading “Ragged Dick” by Horation Algers.
    I can manage to read it. I like it.
    Thank you.

  33. emiliano says:

    Jeff, like this boy I could say also:

    Dear Teacher,
    You are the best teacher and friend I have ever had.
    Thank you!


  34. Ana says:

    Nice story, quite inspiring, for sure.

    It’s quite a lesson for life, don’t you think?
    I’m not a teacher, but my job does require a kind of people savvy experience and we do learn a lot when we step out of our comfort zone and accept people just the way they are. It’s rather challenging and, not to lie, even stressful at times, but, eventually we got the hang of it, and dealing with people and their own personalities gets something like second nature.

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