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This past week was a long one. With a couple of teachers out, a few of us had to make up the difference. And while I’ve done my best to hide the stress, it seemed my minimal makeup under the eyes wasn’t fooling anyone.

Especially my class of preteen gals, all sassy and full of opinions.

“Oh teacher, you look so tired! Did you get to sleep?”

“Did you eat today?”

“You’re a panda, teacher!”

(I think this was to do with the aforementioned dark circles under my eyes. And my pale complexion, probably. Regardless, it wasn’t because I’m cute and cuddly.)

At the break, they took off, wanting to “give (me) time to rest.”

What an adorable support system.

But how had I acquired such a loyal student base?

Well, I can assure you, it’s not superior teaching methods or years of experience. All I’ve ever taught folks involved newspaper design and … yep. That’s it.

Yet since arriving at this company, I’ve developed a teaching style that’s certainly my own and effective enough to keep my retention rates high. I wouldn’t say I’m conventional. I pride myself on being the “crazy” teacher — the one who loves hands-on activities, goofy hairstyles and starting each class with a melodramatic “Helloooooooo!”

As the proud owner of an English degree (don’t worry, my mother knows I’m not likely to be supporting her in old age), I know what I’m talking about. I genuinely enjoy grammar discussions and literature analysis.

As far as the actual teaching goes, it’s been my philosophy since the beginning that students who enjoy your class will probably end up liking English, too. And once they like it, there’s no stopping their success.

I mean, hell, it took me actually enjoying Chinese to make any progress with it. Those little encouraging language moments are all part of the foundation you’ll need to build on. So more often than not, I’m celebrating my students as much as teaching them. I take time to chat with students before classes and walk them through test papers so they feel more confident for the next.

Now, you can’t win them all. At the end of a particularly rambunctious lesson with a group of 6- and 7-year-olds, one girl (who’s new to my class) piped up. “Teacher, I don’t like you. This class is stupid.”

Kids are so charming.

But before I could respond, one of my long-time students — a personality-packed boy named Tiger — spoke up. “Hey, teacher is funny and fun! Her class is the best!”

Mind you, this was the little girl’s close friend yelling at her for her snarky comment. She shuffled off, and Tiger smiled at me. “You’re my favorite teacher,” he called as he left.

Teacher: 1. New, wise-ass student: 0.

Ah, my kiddos. It’s been a bumpy three years, but we’ve learned a hell of a lot from each other.

Read more Sieh: Stalk her:

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