I started attending a Quaker meeting a few months ago. I tried the Salvos but I just don’t think the main stream church is for me at this stage of my life. I am just loving the Quaker meetings though. We are a small group (only 6 of us) and all of us except one are pretty new to Quakerism so we have been reading a book of different readings called Quaker Basics. Obviously it is all about Quakerism and what the Quakers do and stand for. There is some really interesting and inspiring stuff in it and after the meeting in silence we have breakfast and sit and discuss the readings.

Last weeks reading were really profound for me and spoke directly to a situation I have been having at work. A student of mine a few weeks got a little frustrated with another student in the class who had answered a question he had posed. This is something I encourage in my classroom, I like creating a space in which we all learn together and from each other so I asked him stay back and talk about his problem. I was nervous as this student has also always been quite cold with me as well. However we had the most amazing conversation. He started off quite aggressively telling me that he came to class to learn English from me. He said that in Africa the teacher teaches and the students learn. If the students know so much then they don’t need to come to class he argued. He also said that he didn’t like group work. He told me that the other students in the class were rascist, that he has been studying with them for a year now and they hadn’t talked to him before, only now in my class. I was secretly pleased with this revelation, one of things I have most enjoyed is watching the students build friednships and learn about each other’s culture but obviously it is hard for him so I asked if he would prefer to work with the other Sudanese students. He said he wouldn’t. He is from a different tribe to most of the Sudanese in Alice and in my class and it was this other tribe that came into his village and murdered his parents and older brother. I was obviously shocked but his coldness with me was starting to make more sense. I listened to him as he told me his story, and he calmed down as he did so. He told me about how he came to Australia and his wife and children still in Sudan.

Since then I have thought about him a lot. About his life of course but also his thoughts on my teaching. While I have to say he seems to be a lot better in class since our chat I have been really struggling to work out how I can be the sort of teacher he wants without changing my style completely. Not only do some of the other student’s report to like it but I think it is actually a leads to more learning than a totally teacher centred approach. Not to mention I think it is really the only way I can be, While I was battling with this in my head I read this in the Quaker book. The author is actually a teacher as well, who does traning with other teachers about their strengths and weaknesses so it speaks directly to my problem but I think it works in all areas of life too.

“I ask the teachers to help each other to see that our limitations and liabilities are the flipside of our gifts, how our weaknesses are the inevitable trade offs we must make for having the strengths we have. When I understand my limits as trade offs for my strengths, something new and liberating happens within me. I no longer want to have my limitations fixed for to get fixed would be to compromise or destroy my gift. Instead I want to learn to acknowledge, embrace and live more gracefully within my limitations. So I will never be a good teacher for some students but perhaps I can find a way to keep the situation from souring.”

2 thoughts on “Limitations

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