|Photo by Cleo Phas|
August till about mid-October is the time of the year when I enjoy a bit of a lull at work and all my usual students (I teach small groups) are on holiday. It’s also the time of the year when I get approached by some really peculiar one-on-one students. For example, this year’s summer assortment includes the following characters:
- an adult beginner who wants to speak perfect English by December and yet doesn’t want to do any out-of-class work;
- a high-powered business woman who needs help with her presentations in English
- an IELTS candidate who wants to practise speaking
You will say: what’s so unusual about it – isn’t it the kind of students we normally teach? Yet there is a difference. My usual, longer-term students are both familiar with my expectations of them and realistic about the process of language learning and therefore willing to work hard. In contrast, my August students are less process-oriented and, for most part, are looking for quick fixes. As a result, little of what happens in class can be considered as Language Teaching. It’s also ironic that I normally charge these short-term summer students higher fees – this way I can work fewer hours and spend more time on the Tel Aviv beach :)
Take, for example, student A who takes lessons twice a week but is unwilling to do anything outside class. I've tried a combination of paper-based and computer based homework but to no avail. He also refuses to take any notes in class relying on his memory. I got him to install Evernote so that he can take notes on his iPad in class and review on his computer at home or his iPhone on the go (see this post by Rob Lewis about using Evernote) but his enthusiasm didn’t last longer than a week by the end of which he'd forgotten his password. My recent attempt at mLearning was to ask him to take photos with his iPhone of anything he can find in English on the way to work – there's lots of signs in English in Tel Aviv such us "Room for rent", "Business lunch", "Dry cleaning" and many others. I thought it would both inspire him to learn English outside the class and maximise his exposure. But this was futile too.
Students B and C while seemingly more motivated aren't any better. Student B wants to "upgrade her English" but by the time we go over her presentations very little time is left for any language input. Besides she refuses to try out any new language I try to feed into her presentations relying on what she knows. She is a very busy woman but she reads a lot in English (mainly work-related stuff) so I suggested using Diigo to highlight useful chunks (I told her "steal useful expressions") in the articles she reads and trying to incorporate them into her presentations but she didn't see much point of it.
Finally, Student C is similar in that he wants us to practice speaking with me correcting his mistakes (which he makes again 10 minutes later) but he doesn't actually want to do anything else in English (listening, reading) believing that his speaking will somehow miraculously improve as a result of speaking. Thus we're stuck rehearsing ad nauseam IELTS speaking part 2 and 3 - he even brings his own topics!
One of my favourite quotes about teaching goes something like that:
One of the greatest roles of a teacher is making oneself unemployedI am all for making myself unemployed (so that I can enjoy the beach) that’s why I see the development of learner autonomy as essential especially when dealing with short-term students. Apart from teaching a lot of lexis which I see as a key to language learning, I always try to encourage students to become independent learners, maximize their out-of-class exposure to and improve their uptake of English. Giving the learner necessary tools, developing their ability to "notice", raising awareness of patterns of language is more important than correcting a few random mistakes and teaching them a handful of useful phrases.
|Photo by Tzvi Meller|
And the beach beckons…
Where's my beach towel?