Thursday, July 29, 2010

teaching, learning, failing

This week has seen a lot of failed lessons, but not in a bad way. It's good for me to remember the kind of quiet that falls over a classroom where students have no idea what's going on. The advantage of being in a sort of low burnout period is that I'm feeling extremely mellow and communicative about classroom flow. To the kids who were bugging me today, I said in Spanish, "Look, I'm telling you to be quiet, and you're not. Today I have no patience," and then promptly put them a couple notches closer to being kicked out of class. Easy-peasy.

I've been doing a names exercise at the beginning too, and it's really nice to know their names, even if I only remember for that class. I also have lots of time to use up, both with Marcela's randomizing the class length, and the not-quite-good lesson I'm working on.

I'm trying to do "Family" stuff with them, and while they have no problem with "Do you have any brothers or sisters?", even being able to say something like "I have three brothers and five sisters," the failure comes with questions about a family tree like "Who is Rosa's wife?". The possessive is screwing them up, notwithstanding that they "learned" it in Marcela's class. In every class I take a shot at explaining it, watched them drift off the way they do when Marcela explains things, then punt and move on to the quiz game for reviewing last semester's stuff. I'll have a stab at figuring out an interactive way to do it.

On a related note, Oscar asked today if I had time to work with some remedial students from another English teacher, who haven't had any English and as a result are doing even worse than the rest of the class. I said:
"I might have time, yeah. The thing is, the problem with English instruction here is that it's not tailored to the level of the students, so in terms of actually using the language, a student with no English is at roughly the same level as a student with two or four years of English. The stuff that I teach, or to be honest, that I know how to teach, is basic and doesn't really mesh with the school's material."
Oscar nodded, but we agreed we can look at the materials and see if I could be helpful.

This would put me in the fascinating position of teaching Chilean students how to succeed in Chilean English classes, which is completely different from teaching them English. I'd be helping them attain the same mechanistic lack of usage that their peers have. I'm on the fence: in the sense it would help them in school, it would be good for them. For me, I think it might be a little painful.

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