Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Start at the beginning, and when you get to the end, stop.

I have a new class. Boy, do I ever. I am teaching Level 1 again, my favorite group. I love teaching beginners for many reasons.

First, they want to be there. They have taken a rather large first step. They are willing to try something new and that is a powerful attitude.

Second, most of them know absolutely nothing about the English language. This being said, they have a clean slate to work with. They haven't yet picked up bad habits (that everyone has in a foreign language) and can be taught something correctly.

Third, as a foreign language student myself, I start the class with full Spanish (which is another avenue of practice for me) and slowly wean them off of it and before they know it, I'm only speaking to them in English, but they UNDERSTAND!

Fourth, there is no shortage of topics to teach. They need to know the basics, which depending on them, can take many directions.

Oftentimes students approach me before/during/after class to help them translate phrases they need for work. (Please put your suitcase on the scale. I need to inspect your boat. Are you a vegetarian? Fill out this form, please. Where do you have pain?)

I have nearly 50 students combined. A much longer roster than usual, as attendance in prior classes has curbed at no more than 15 per class. That's the beauty of small language classes - so much personalized attention from the teacher.

When I say I am teaching in a university, most people imagine a roomful of boisterous youngsters in their late teens and early twenties, like in the US. Not exactly. While I have many typical university students (same age group, familiar with the process of being a student, i.e; doing homework, taking tests, studying, attending classes regularly, etc), more than half are older adults. They are working professionals with homes and families. They work for the National Park, the Navy, the Police, the hospital, the city government, and various other institutions. This changes the tone of the class.

On top of that, I also have a few teenage high schoolers peppered in the mix. These students are 15 or 16 years old, attend high school classes during the day (including the English classes they are required to take in high school) and also attend the English program at the university in the evenings. Sounds like quite a mature and eager student to be tackling all that, huh? You would think.

So now we've started in on the third week of the intensive 7-week course. And they are all still coming. I'm tickled, don't get me wrong. But usually what happens is the first week is kind of crazy with new students showing up and then disappearing, or else dropping in a few days late and trying to get caught up, etc.

I thought that surely after I assigned them their mid-term project last week that a few would drop. But to my surprise, I will have 47 mid-term projects to grade. And I can't wait!