Reflections on teaching, 22 Mar. 2012

It’s been a long week. A good week, but a long one. And it isn’t even Friday yet!

My teaching schedule is beginning to pick up. This week I took on two more classes: one with a private student and one with a small group.

The private student, S., is a young woman at the pre-intermediate level studying business English in hopes of moving into a more enjoyable, and more lucrative, position.She is very eager and asks many questions, and so far we have worked a lot on speaking and listening skills. She often has to speak with English-speakers by phone, so we spent a fair amount of yesterday’s lesson, for example, working on that through role-play. She responds very well to delayed error correction. After she understands the mistake she made and how to fix it, she writes it down in her notebook (occasionally adding commentary in Spanish, which I jokingly chide her about) and often remembers later — even if she commits the same mistake again, she is good at realizing it and self-correcting. She’s a pleasure to work with, and I’m excited about the coming weeks and months of our classes.

The small group class is made up of four men at the advanced level, studying business English for work. They’ve known each other for many years, working in the same company as they do, and their preexisting camaraderie has been a boon to the class in this first week; they are unafraid of asking questions, which is wonderful. Today I played a short TED Talk for them in today’s class, and though they all complained at first that it was too fast for them (and it was quite fast), they got it after hearing it a second time, and we used it to discuss effective ways of structuring presentations, a skill they all need to learn for their careers.

And of course I’ve continued meeting with my other private student, A., each evening. I don’t know whether she has wholly put aside her very ambitious goal of speaking with her boss, who is United States-ian and will be visiting the Santiago branch of the company the first week in April, in fluent English (!), but I think she may have at least scaled it down a bit. I hope so. (And here I should note that it isn’t at all the case that I want to discourage her from having big goals; it is just the opposite. But she is a beginning English speaker now, and to put that much pressure on herself, reaching for an all-but-impossible goal like conquering a language after three weeks of study (again, !), would likely have a negative long term effect when she does not achieve it.)

That said, I am happy to report that she has made clear improvements since we began working together last week. She is getting more accustomed to hearing English and understanding it by sound alone, rather that always depending on text to guide her, and she is speaking more clearly as well. Of course her understanding of the grammatical structure is improving, as is her vocabulary, but what excites me most is that she is finally willing to take risks with the language. Just yesterday we had a sort of breakthrough where she realized (or began to realize) that it’s okay to make a mistake; the important thing is making the effort. She has taken an important step toward fluency by abandoning her obsession with perfection. Ironically, the only way she (or anyone) will ever reach anything close to perfection in learning a foreign language is by being as roughlyimperfect as is necessary in the first, trying, months of learning.

So, as I said, it’s been a good but long week. Lots of teaching (so of course lots of preparation), a couple of meetings, and a few very satisfying teaching moments to keep my spirits in the classroom not only afloat but soaring. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s classes, followed by what will surely be another beautiful weekend in Santiago, and then more work — and more progress! — next week.

And now, I shall relax with some hot tea and a good book. As George Costanza would say, I’m about to take some time to myself to decompress. I feel lighter already.


About Christine Ghattas

Christine Ghattas (Christine Bonnie Ghattas) is a teacher and artist from the United States. View all posts by Christine Ghattas

One response to “Reflections on teaching, 22 Mar. 2012

  • wordsfromwellie

    You seem to be enjoying your time in Chile. Wonderful! I got my TEFL certification in November and I am yet to land my first job. I applied for a job in Chile but I am a little scared to complete the process :). Your blog is encouraging though and you seem to have a genuine interest in your students. Keep up the good work! 🙂

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