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Commandment 1 – Set a Personal Example With Your Own Behaviour

I remember getting the impression that one of my elementary school teachers hated children. I think I was about 11 or 12 years old when it happened. I was paired with a younger student for a reading buddy program, and I saw the difference in how this teacher treated their own students and the older buddies. I wondered why someone who disliked children would make a career out of working with them.

A Bad Day?

Now, to be totally fair to this teacher, maybe they were having a bad day. I have certainly had my fair share of them as an AET. I think we can all relate. The class wasn’t responding to an activity as you’d hoped they would. The temperature in the classroom was all wrong. There was a big baseball game that afternoon, or the latest idol group just released their new music video. Whatever it was, your class was getting on your last nerve. Whether or not this teacher actually hated children isn’t really important. What is important is that I left that interaction believing it to be true. That moment has stayed with me for over 20 years. 

Our Beliefs Inform Our Behaviour

How we present ourselves to our students matters. Our beliefs – about English, about learning, about our students – matter. Because our beliefs inform our behaviour. I feel like a total hypocrite sometimes. I tell my students that making mistakes is okay, that’s how we learn. I tell them that their English won’t improve if they don’t actually use it. Meanwhile, my pile of Japanese textbooks is collecting dust. Yikes! Still, I try to show my students that learning a language can be fun, even if it isn’t always easy. I make plenty of mistakes in Japanese and I am still doing just fine! 

We Are Role Models

Whether we realize it or not, whether we like it or not, we are role models for our students. If we are unenthusiastic about teaching, why should they care about learning? If we don’t think learning English is important, worthwhile, or even fun, why should they? Your job doesn’t need to be your life, but if you believe in what you are doing, and if you can show that to your students with your words and actions, they’ll notice.