In her eighth diary entry, Willow Vanderbosch muses on the value of positive feedback.
It is a wonderful feeling, to know your teaching is effective and appreciated. Many times in my teaching career, I felt frustrated because the only feedback I got was negative. Admittedly, I only received about two comments a year out of about 300 students, but I always felt frustrated that the only feedback was negative. I was sure I was doing a good job (or there would have been a lot more complaints). We all need positive along with the negative to maintain balance and motivation.
Working in a non-academic environment has its perks. Here, I'm the only expert on what I do. There is no one to observe me, instruct me to do things certain ways or force me to do extra workshops whether I'm interested or not. Naturally, I feel obliged to do these things for myself, but it's more tailored since it's a self-imposed discipline.
Further, I get quite a lot of feedback from the population, which is very motivating for me. Granted, it's mostly in terms of excitement rather then technical feedback: 'You are doing a very good job. I don't know about teaching, but everyone is very excited to go to your classes and many people are now speaking English, even the gardeners.' said the Island Chief one night at the cocktail party.
My personal favorite was from one of the bar tenders one night: 'We Maldivians have no time go for English class!' He announced suddenly, in his gravelly Tom Waits voice, as he delivered my drink with a bang. I looked at him puzzled, and said, 'Well, actually, a lot of people come for class.' 'Yes! This is what I'm saying! They come!' '...I don't understand.' I said, taking a sip.
He began an elaborate explanation, getting more and more worked up by the second. I briefly wondered if he was going to explode, he was so excited. I sipped in silence watching the spectacle before me, wondering what was going to happen next, and why I didn't just have a drink in my room. I never know what the bartenders are going to say to me, and it's usually (unintentionally) fairly insulting.
'....you understand what I say??!!' He braked suddenly to a full stop from his passionate soliloquy and looked at me expectantly, with beads of perspiration beginning to show on his forehead from his effort.
'...so, you say that the staff comes to English class NOT because I am a woman, but because they want to learn English?' I said, summing up ten minutes of speech with one very slow deliberate sentence. 'YES!' He sighed a huge sigh of relief and went happily back to work, singing softly.
A few minutes later as he cleared away my glass, 'So, when my class start?' I laughed and promised, 'Soon.'
Finally, although I was only gone on holiday for four days, I received no less than 11 phone calls from students saying they missed me, and when was I going to come back and begin classes again?
It's good to be appreciated.
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