My Turn, Your Turn

Thai has not been an easy language for me to learn, but it is rewarding to see as I am becoming more able to communicate with students and the parents effectively. Many of my students can speak and understand a fair amount of English, but some would still struggle to understand what I say. The real challenge came as I finally have a student who doesn’t understand nor speak a word of English, and not to mention very shy. I started to teach the student some English in a way to establish a basic understanding and teach him how to respond to what I say. You can imagine me using a big amount of body language and other means to get the message across since I have never done such thing before. As the progress is going slowly I learned one thing that changed my understanding of teaching.

For a long time, I have been accustomed to the idea that teaching is all about feeding information into the brain, mainly verbal, and any unclear spot only means more information. For example, I would say a lot to explain how the hand moves at the piano while showing how, but no matter how simple I’d make my sentence there is always a chance for the student to get overwhelmed by the exhaustive amount of words I spoke. I realized that if I speak too much then there will be not enough room in the student’s brain to process the information, which also makes my effort in vain.

So, I changed it up and started to have more “my turn your turn” activity with the beginning students, which I would play a short passage first and then they would try to copy to the closest they could get, and I found method surprisingly pleasant. I realized I don’t need to talk that much anymore and I can just play and leave the most of observation and imitation to the students. The thinking process has since been transferred from my head to theirs and teaching has been more effective and enjoyable.

In first Corinthian chapter 11, Paul started out the letter by saying “imitate me just as I also imitate Christ” following the dos and don’ts in the previous chapter. It is as if Paul was saying to the fellow believers: “ok, if what I said just got you lost of the track, do this then, imitate me imitating Christ.”

Not only it would make teaching easier if I can teach students how to think, it also means that I need to get better at the piano if I want to be imitated. Words can only do so much when it comes to teaching, and a good teacher would teach students to be thinkers and encourage them to find answers on their own.

Preaching the gospel is necessary, but actions and set up examples to encourage others to imitate is even more important and effective. If we can have a closer relationship with God so that His love can shine through us more effectively, the people around us will want to be like us.

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