Being a teacher and a tutor teaching H2 Chemistry tuition for over 15 years, I have heard and seen countless cases whereby the words used by teachers and tutors and how they show up in front of their students impact their confidence in A level Chemistry and other subject. It also affects their interest in the subject. I shall use two stories to share these moments that the students have with their teachers or tutors that result in the confidence of students being shaken.
In my JC Chemistry tuition classes, I have been teaching a group of students from a school that offers both IP and mainstream pathways to A levels. During one of the lessons that I was teaching, the student shared with some frustration that his school compared the results of the mid-year examinations for JC Chemistry between the IP and JC mainstream students to emphasize that the students doing IP did much better than the mainstream students, my student was a JC mainstream student. The impact that it had on him was that he felt like a second-class citizen as compared to those in IP. I can understand the school’s perspective which could be an attempt to jolt the JC mainstream students into action so that they can improve their grades in Chemistry. However, the unintended consequences of the action led to frustration for some students, drop in confidence in the subject and maybe an unhealthy tension or relationship with the IP students. Am sure all is done with good intent but at times, it is best for students to run their own individual race, as long as they have put in their best, that is good enough regardless of the final results.
This is the another story I am sharing. I had a student who joined my JC Chemistry tuition class pretty late in the year, just a few months before the A level exams. The student was pretty weak in Chemistry and I could feel that he was worried about his A levels, in particular his two weaker subjects which are Chemistry and Economics. After a few lessons, he asked me about my assessment on how likely he will do well in the subject. In my mind, I thought that he was really pretty weak and chances of doing well are slim. However, I was aware on the impact of my words and chose to withhold my judgment. I told him not to worry and put in his best and reassured him that I will work alongside him to achieve his own personal best result. He thanked me and went on to share with me that he had also recently signed up for Economics group tuition and upon joining, the tutor told him that he had joined the class too late and probably won’t do well. That remark by the tutor affected his confidence in the subject. While I could understand where the Econs tutor was coming from, he probably wasn’t aware that the remark had made a dent in the student’s confidence.
We all need to know that the words and actions by tutors and teacher mean a lot to most students and hence we really need to be very careful with what we say or do. Don’t get me wrong, my point isn’t to frame everything positively and sugarcoat our words but we can at least exercise some discretion on how we convey our words and at least be neutral when conveying the message. As humans, we often judge others and it can’t be helped because we are wired in that way. However, we definitely can pause after forming our judgment before taking actions or conveying our thoughts in a manner that will minimize or eliminate the negative impact that we may have on our students because most students take the words of tutors and teachers very seriously.