Concerning Kids – Learning sometimes requires a “cruel” teacher


Christian Life

Anna Gnatyshyna, CNE.news

Pupils of the first grade attend a lesson in a classroom set up in a subway station in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Photo AFP, Sergey Bobok

Kids don't like studying. They don't like to be lectured, taught, instructed, or corrected. If they could have a day of their dreams, it would be playing all day and eating sweets and junk food. Nobody would dream of spending a day at school.

The adults are no different. When we think about having a day off, we do not think about work that needs to be done. Learning is work. A few would treat learning as a pleasure.

Children can procrastinate as Olympic champions once you ask them to clean up their room or do their school homework. And then the next day, we hear the classic "The dog ate my homework" or "My computer spontaneously combusted".


When I worked as an English language tutor, I saw that so many times. Kids usually had not done their homework, and parents made excuses like, "We were out all day long, and the boy was so happy, so I let him skip homework".

When I was alone with the kids, they would suddenly become interested in the most obscure actions the moment they were asked to open the books. They would try to show me all their toys, ask me for tea with cookies, and suddenly realise that the guinea pig was hungry.


As a teacher, I had to create a framework of pressure that would make them study. Otherwise, it might never happen. For many years, my mother felt bad that she pushed me to study languages, play musical instruments, and face my problems instead of hiding. However, today, I am thankful for the skills I have. I am trying to keep that in mind when I am teaching kids.

Emilia (my friend's daughter) was working hard on creating a birthday postcard for her mom. She drew flowers, wrote "I love you" in her native Ukrainian language, and then remembered the "Happy Birthday to you" song that they had learned in school. And she had a brilliant idea to write down that song in English (her second language) so Mom could be proud of her.


The only problem was that she could not write in English; she had just recently started to study it. She came to me and told me (in an imperative way) to write it down on the postcard, imitating her childish handwriting. I refused and got her full dramatic acting set with sighs and pitiful expressions that made me question my 'cruelty'.

It would have taken me a minute to do it myself. Instead, I spent 10 minutes teaching her how to write those several English words. Yeah, I felt like a cruel teacher because I forced her to learn how to do it. But I know that was the right thing to do. Such teaching moments would build up like bricks until, eventually, she is able to do it on her own. And that day, I will celebrate her skilfulness as my own victory.



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