Having recently returned from a trip to Penang, I learned a few things.
1) Information, freely given, connects people
We were at a cafe when one of the owners, a well-travelled man himself, offered to help us familiarise ourselves with the immediate area. Using a map we brought along with us, he pinpointed places of interest that were not often advertised to tourists. With this help, our exploration became easier and I was intrigued to know that, apart from the cafe, he works as a teacher of languages - he is fluent in Thai, Chinese, Malay and English - and sometimes works as an emcee. We exchanged contacts and bid our farewells but he remains in mind because of his willingness to openly share and guide us.
As teachers, we should do the same thing. Our openness to our learners will allow them to connect with us even though what we share may not be immediately linked to the subject at hand. I learned a first-hand lesson in rapport-building, one that I intend to take to heart.
2) Plans sometimes go awry
Being there over the beginning of the new year, we planned to visit some landmarks and do a little shopping but we had not counted on so many places being closed for most of the time that we were there. It so happened that 2nd Jan was a Friday and many of the places decided to stay closed to enjoy the long weekend. Nevertheless, we made alternate plans and still had a fruitful trip. We may perhaps not have visited them if everything went according to the original plan and we may be less enriched because of it.
As teachers, we know the importance of lesson planning. It is, perhaps, almost criminal to step into a session without having first planned how it should go. That said, it is just as important to be flexible and quick on our feet. Plans don't always go according to, well, plan. At these times, we need a backup that may turn out just as well.