What does a student learn by becoming a teacher? A lot it turns out.

First, there’s the endless preparation that goes into class time. I now realize that for every minute that a teacher spends in front of students teaching their class, they have probably spent hours of their own free time working on that very lesson plan, making sure that things are running as smoothly as possible for that class.

Then there is the need to be interested and in touch with your students, easier said than done when 30+ people are under your domain. While forgetting a student’s name on the second week might not seem a big deal, to the students, it can ruin their day, or worse, their whole summer.

Junior Manson Tung will be teaching at Hong Kong Summerbridge from June 21-August 15. He will be writing periodic blogs about his experience living, working, and traveling around Asia.

The forethought required in planning a lesson is a factor that I hadn’t thought of prior to my experience here at Summerbridge. It wasn’t until my second lesson, when I forgot to bring scissors to class and had to slice 20 pieces of paper with my Swiss army knife, that I realized that teachers have to foresee everything and anything. All materials have to be brought to the classroom, and harder-to-find materials have to be procured from obscure shops scattered across Kowloon and the New Territories (pipe cleaners are a 40-minute subway ride away). What seems like a spur-of-the-moment activity has probably been in the works for days, if not weeks.

Trying to energize the groggy students while you are probably feeling doubly as tired, but hiding it under a veneer of excited energy, is yet another challenge. After two weeks of Starbucks runs, my wallet was hurting, and so was my body from the lack of sleep.

Then there is the event planning. Now I know that not every teacher is involved in the events at Country Day, but the amount of time it took for five people (all in their second or third years at prestigious universities) to pull together a low key two-hour fashion show was absolutely shocking to me. Promotional skits, props, scripts, sound effects: they all have to be thought of in advance.

Then there are the last-minute hurdles, like typhoons that come with a 9-hour notice or freak thunderstorms or special events that derail the best-laid plans. Being flexible isn’t a plus when it comes to teaching. Being flexible is a means of survival.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I never realized how tough being a teacher was. And after having had this experience, I think that I will be a better student because I have seen what it is like to be on the other end of the conversation: to be receiving the blanks stares from students rather than giving them; to be explaining something for the second, or third or fourth time and still not having any light bulbs going on; when you’re out of ideas and hoping that something, anything will stick.

I know that our Country Day teachers have received a better instruction on how to be a teacher than I probably did in my week and a half of staff training.

But if this experience didn’t teach me anything else, it taught me to be a better student, and a better person by extension.

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