About inspiration, strength and gratitude

“Dear teacher,

I’d like to say I have never forgotten your lessons and I’m grateful you have inspired me to follow this path.”

This is part of a message I received last month. It is from a student I had over 20 years ago and who is now a successful teacher of English. I still remember her in my lessons, her brilliant compositions and perfect handwriting. She was a quiet student who I have never forgotten and reading her message made my eyes well up.

Many of us have received these thank you and appreciation notes and messages from past students. I suppose we all get that heartwarming feeling when we read them. To me, they represent how concretely our work can inspire others. After so many years, knowing that we have touched someone’s life in a way that influenced their future is what gives meaning to all we have done in our professional life. Teaching is not easy and I believe from time to time we think about what would have happened if we had chosen a different career. Would we be happier? Wealthier? Healthier? Several of us will come to the conclusion that we were born to teach, that this is the profession that is at the core of our heart and soul. And when we are lucky enough to receive messages like the one above, we are reassured that we have made a good choice.

At a time when the future of our profession seems gloomy, it is messages like these that also give us strength to keep going, to keep investing in our careers, to keep insisting and, for some teachers in very diverse and underprivileged conditions, to keep resisting. If you, like me, believe in the power of knowledge, of communication and of how language can break barriers and overcome obstacles, you know we need to be strong and resilient. You also know how fundamental our students are in helping us to do so. It is the students that lead the way and it is because of them that we do what we do. Because we touch lives, our responsibility is huge – we can influence and inspire, but we can also damage and hurt. Choosing our words and respecting our students has an impact and it is so important to remember this in every class we teach and in every interaction we have.

Likewise, gratitude for the teachers and mentors we had, and for the teachers and students we once were, helps define who we are today and keeps us moving forward, looking ahead to becoming the best teachers we can be. We know it is a never-ending road and it feels good to know that we have learnt so much from others and always will. I am grateful for all the teachers, students and colleagues I had because I know it was them who shaped the teacher I have become. They inspired and strengthened me even when I was not aware they were doing so.

This is my last post of the year and today I am grateful and humbled by the fact that my student of so many years ago was kind enough to tell me I somehow helped her choose ELT as a career. I hope she is as happy with her choice as I was. I would also like to express my eternal gratitude to a mentor I had many years ago and who has recently left us: Anna Szabo. She touched the lives of many, she was demanding and generous and truly represents an example to a plethora of ELT professionals in Brazil. I am pleased I had the chance to tell her how indebted I feel for everything she taught me.

elainehodgson

Elaine Hodgson is a freelance teacher trainer and materials writer, as well as a supervisor on the Distance MA in TEFL at Birmingham University (UK). She holds an MA from UECE and a PhD from UFC in Applied Linguistics. You can read more about her work at https://www.elainehodgsonelt.com. Email: elainechaveshodgson@hotmail.com

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