a blog for teachers who follow the Master Teacher
When I was in my late 20s, I participated in an eye-opening teacher exchange in Ota, Japan. This led me to sell my rural home in Indiana in the United States and accept a teaching position in Cheonan, South Korea. This made little sense to many of my friends. I absolutely enjoyed being a sixth grade geography teacher in small town Indiana, and I knew virtually nothing about teaching English to city kids in Korea.
I faced several challenges during my year in Korea that taught me I was not a master teacher. When I started teaching non-native English speakers, I became very aware that my heart was full of teaching pride and not truly dependent on Yahweh, the Master Teacher. Success as a classroom teacher and coach in earlier years grew a self-sufficiency in me, and difficult teaching experiences that I wasn’t accustomed to revealed how I needed wisdom from above.
One area of my teaching struggle was my failure to carefully consider the backgrounds and cultures of my students. I proudly thought I could teach Korean students in the same manner as I taught American and Hispanic students back in Indiana. Yahweh showed me otherwise. One particular time this was made evident to me was when the head of the school indirectly informed me that I had improperly disciplined my oldest students.
The next school year I accepted a social studies teaching position in Tianjin, China. I thought teaching in this setting would be easier for several reasons. No longer would I be teaching English to non-native speakers at various grade levels, but now would be teaching subjects I enjoyed to middle school international students. Once again, I failed to consider the students I had been entrusted with, most of whom were Korean. Although I was teaching in an international school where students had strong English skills, my American humor did not translate well. I initially struggled to genuinely connect with my students.
My shortcomings forced me to reflect on how the Master Teacher instructed others. Sometimes He boldly challenged those with unbiblical practices by quoting prophecy, sometimes He called people and made explicit commands, and sometimes He actively sought those with limited understanding and patiently provided the answers. In each of these cases involving people from various walks of life, the Master Teacher perfectly considered His students. He is the Master Teacher who taught in numerous settings and with a wide variety of teaching techniques. Let us follow His flawless example and help our students grow in grace and knowledge. Let us not proudly rely on our own wisdom, but rely on Yahweh’s power to guide us in how we teach to whomever we teach. May others be forever impacted as we reflect the One who deserves all of the praise.
Mark Wickersham currently coaches and teaches at Tianjin International School in Tianjin, China. He has lived in the Middle Kingdom for more than 12 years and has also lived in Guam, Thailand, Brazil, Puerto Rico, and South Korea. His accent is from Indiana in the United States, and sometimes his TESOL certified wife corrects his grammar. Mark has served as a middle school principal for several years and is the father to three children, ages three to thirteen.