Teaching the Teacher

Teaching the Teacher

I’m a part-time EFL teacher (English as a Foreign Language) – it’s a job I love, which allows me to be creative, as well as meet and learn about new cultures. Recently, I started teaching pre-teens, an age group I’m not really familiar with.

 

On my first day, I was overwhelmed by the number of students, but mostly, by their very different levels. I had students who picked up on what I was trying to say immediately, while others just kept staring blankly at me. There was one particular boy who looked taken aback whenever I asked him a question, sometimes even physically moving back from me. And he would just say nothing. Eventually he just cocooned himself in his hoodie… hiding. He refused to participate, and he refused to complete the written exercises, by putting the paper I would have just given him on the floor.

 

The other boys told me he doesn’t understand or speak English – and my thought was “well, how am I going to teach him, when I have another 14 students who need attention?”. After the lesson, I went to speak to this class’ previous teacher – and she told me that the does understand English, but he is incredibly shy.

 

And things started falling in place! From his fear every time I asked him a question, to his cocoon.

 

And I realised that I was to blame for his shyness – I was a new person, and he was not comfortable with me. And I had to acknowledge how my presence affected him, instead of trying to pin the blame on him ‘not knowing English well’.

 

So the following day I was ready. He sat down closer to me, and knowing that he really loved animals, I did a lesson with lots of videos and animals. The idea worked – he was more engaged in the lesson (despite not saying a word) and his face was brighter. What’s best is that he actually did the exercises whenever I gave him the paper.

 

During one of the lessons they had to imagine what a monster’s timetable / daily routine would look like. An exercise he loved. Since he still wasn’t speaking to me, he would turn the paper round to show it to me, silently asking me if what he was writing was correct. Whenever he did not know a word, he would draw it, and I would tell him what the word is – and then he would write it (and usually, write it perfectly).

 

And every day, this boy is improving, not just his English, but also his comfort with me. So much so, that the day following this exercise, I asked him a simple “this or that” question and he actually spoke to me. He only speaks in one or two word sentences, but the communication works, and the message gets across.

 

So the moral of the story is – don’t shirk off responsibility. Before being told that he’s very shy (more than the usual amount which one would expect), I was ready to blame him for not understanding English, instead of realising that I, as a new face in his life, was not someone he was comfortable with.

Paying Homage to Tank Man

Paying Homage to Tank Man

On the 5th of June, 1989 something spectacular happened.

 

You’ve probably heard that China and Tibet do not like each other much… well in 1989 people were protesting. These people were protesting the corruption and anti-democratic way that China was leading.

 

And these people were getting killed by the military – by the thousands.

 

And on this fateful day in 1989, as military tanks were moving towards Tienanmen Square, a random man stepped in front of them. He stood in front of the tanks, forcing them to stop moving. And then he climbed on top of the first tank, slammed on the hatchet and started talking to the soldiers inside.

 

When he climbed back down, two people from the crowd whisked him away. It is unknown if these people were part of the military and arrested him, or if they were bystanders who – realising that this man’s life could be in danger – whisked him away to safety.

 

And to this day, his identity remains a mystery, and he was dubbed the Tank Man. 

 

When I was younger, I received a book entitled 101 World Heroes – and he was in it. And he fascinated me from the beginning. The spontaneity of his act, as well as his anonymity, made me realise what activism is truly about. It’s not about following the herd, or trying to pretend you’re making a difference. It’s doing something that you truly care about, so much so that it becomes a spontaneous act.

 

Much like Rosa Parks, when she refused to give up her seat. It wasn’t planned. She didn’t wake up that morning and say “you know what, I’m not standing up on that bus today”. She just refused in that moment.

 

Because true activism comes from the heart.

The Future is Now

The Future is Now

As I reach the end of my undergrad degree, I can’t help but think about the various transitions which are coming up  in my life. I’m a self-professed workaholic, and yet, the one constant in my life has been study. There was always something that had to be studied and an exam to be written. And while I had many jobs, they were never considered to be more important than my studies.

 

So here I am,at a point where my studies have come (temporarily) to an end, and full-full-time work is going to become the most important thing.

 

I should be excited about that, right…?

 

In a way I am. I love work and I love money too , but the thought of spending 8 hours a day, 5 days a week in the same place is daunting.

 

But, c’est la vie, and I’m sure I’ll get used to the routine. In the mean time, I’ll just enjoy my well-deserved freedom!

Why We Need More Willas

Why We Need More Willas

We definitely need more Willa’s in the world. For those who don’t know, Willa is a trans* activist in Malta. And she’s seven (if I’m not mistaken) years old.

 

WHAAAAAT?

 

Yeah. She’s 7, and she’s making change on our little island.

Willa is an out trans girl, and she fought her school to allow her to wear the girls’ uniform, and not the boys’. She won.

She then realised that there are other trans* children – and she wanted to help them too. And so she was part of the group which pushed forward the Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics act, a law that not only gives trans* and intersex people freedom to be themselves, but has also placed Malta as the leading country in LGBTQ+ legislation.

 

So now Willa has written a picture book for children, explaining her journey. Her aim is for parents to read it and understand trans children more, and for trans children to realise that they are really not alone in their feelings.

 

But on our little island, we are so used to the idea that children being passive and without opinions, that when a child outright defy this description, we freak out. But in reality, children DO have opinions, and they are far from passive…if given the space to express themselves.

 

So people were complaining that Willa is being abused of since she is in the Media. These same people fail to realise that by sharing and commenting on Willa’s articles in the press, she is even more in the limelight. Secondly, she is in the media because she wants to be. I’ve seen her speak at conferences and at debates – she loves it and she wants to do it. Speaking to the media is not going to ruin her childhood. With that logic, there shouldn’t be any child actors. At least Willa is trying to spread a message.

 

But apart from all this, we need more Willa’s because children like Willa are activists – and when they grow up, they’ll become even bigger activists. And this world needs more activists – people who will fight to make the world a better place.

 

And why does it have to be children, then? Because children, too have a voice. Because we say that we care about the best interests of the child, but do we really try to ask children for their own opinions about their lives? About what benefits them?

 

Usually, when a child feels that they are of another gender, and try to express the gender they feel inside, they will be silenced. Willa shows parents that it is OK to let your child express their gender in their own way. And if you’re worried that your child may be wrong, then that’s OK too. Because you know what’s going to happen if Willa later on feels as though she’s actually a boy? Well, absolutely nothing. But at least she’ll trust her parents enough to be honest with them.