How personal is personal?
The other day I saw a question in a Facebook group I am a member of. Somebody asked, ” Do you answer personal questions when your learners ask you?” This is what I am going to talk about here today. (Advice to reader: time to pour yourself a cup of coffee 🙂 )
My first question is, what is personal?
I mean do you consider your age personal? Information about your marital status? How tall you are? Where you were born? Cause if the answers to those questions is YES then, OMG, my students know loads about me!
For me, personal is a bit more personal. Let me explain what I mean. I tell my students things that some of you may consider personal. For examples, my learners often ask me, ” Miss do you have a boyfriend?” I say, ” No” then they smile and say, ” Well, I have an uncle… ” They know I am color blind. Health is also personal info, isn’t it? But being color blind affects my teaching, so they need to know this as well. They know when my birthday is, they know I started painting.
I talk about politics and religious beliefs. My struggles as a student or my battle with the scales. I do not consider this personal information. My learners know a lot about me and I know a lot about them. Our ‘personal’ talks do not dominate our lessons, but they do help us connect.
Does language learning have anything to do with being connected with your teacher? Well, of course. I have one buzz term for you. Rapport. If you ask me, rapport is all about knowing who your teacher is and having a good relationship with him/her. This leads to a good atmosphere. It is also about knowing your learner. Knowing my learners also helps me understand why they may not have done their homework one day or why they are sad or happy.
Are there cases when personal questions may make me feel uncomfortable? Yes, and I then say, ” well this is something I would prefer to not discuss with you” and they respect that, and that’s the end of that story. There are also occasions where my learners say, ” My mum doesn’t know this miss” and then I say, ” well, I think you should tell her first and then me”.
Personal chit-chat warmer
Every time I have a lesson with a learner I ask them, ” So, what did you do today?” and they tell me. We have a bit of a chit-chat. I get to know their likes and dislikes. This helps me as a teacher. It enables me to decide what I can or cannot try with the particular learner. It also helps me avoid issues/ topics that are ‘uncomfortable’. I once had a learner who had recently lost her father. Knowing this information was the reason why I decided to avoid talking about the nuclear family. It was too soon.
Bottom line is. We are not from outer space. Teachers are people who have lives. If a student wants to get to know me a bit better, he/she can. I only share what I feel comfortable sharing. I do not think I should be on a pedestal or that by saying how old I am I am being unprofessional. I am not saying my way is right or wrong. I am just being me.
If you have read this up to this last line and feel like commenting, please do. I really am interested in knowing what you consider personal and what not.
A few days later……
I have posted this in several groups and there are some really good comments around. Please copy paste them here as well, so everyone can read your views. I would really appreciate that!! Thanks!!
Till next time……