When I started teaching, more than three decades ago, I could not possibly have imagined what the journey would have been like and to what extent it would have moulded me into what I am at present.
Lesson plans, seminars, keeping up with developments in methodology, backing them up with the psychological theories on which they were based, preparing material of all kinds all went towards ensuring I did more than enough to convey knowledge and motivate students.
Looking back, however, I would say that the most invaluable aid in my professional and personal development was offered by my students themselves. Attending to their learning needs and trying to tailor my teaching accordingly, working out their individual circumstances and making a mental note of their differences in approaching English, observing and taking account of class dynamics have enriched and informed my teaching in so many subtle ways that I would not have even dreamed of when I started out.
Thanks to my students I have reviewed so many beliefs and preconceptions that made up the baggage of the profession. I have learned humility from difference; I have learned flexibility and rejected standardization.
Perhaps the ultimate lesson I have learned is that there are as many ways of learning as learners -- depending on interests, intelligence, motivation, stimulation, personality, outside influences and so many other factors that we are not even aware of.
Learning one or more foreign languages is not simply a process that has its own rewards, practical and intellectual. It encourages -- because it presupposes -- memorising, comparing, ordering and reordering information constantly and assessing and reassessing the significance of new input.
If this was at all possible, it would be an absolutely fascinating experience to watch the workings of the brain while language learning takes place. But even thinking about it is mind-boggling. Whoever has not tried to learn a foreign language has certainly missed out. If nothing else, foreign language learning allows you to gain insights into your first language by examining it from a different perspective and subjecting it to comparisons with other languages.
By trying to understand how students tackle learning, what facilitates comprehension and what inhibits it for each one of them, unwittingly we build bridges with them and forge long-lasting relationships. And this is the essence of life.