Monday, April 11, 2005

Repeat after me

First day back at work, and at the most erratically organised place. I prepared enough copies for a possible 40 students for the first class, just in case. (I have ended up with more in the past, but if that happened I felt I'd be justified in taking time out and going down three flights of stairs - slooowly - to make more copies.) I prepared introductory materials that would suit every level from beginner to quite good. I was expecting beginner, because this was the 'public speaking' class, and I assumed I'd be getting my colleague's students from the 'speech communication' class last year. They were quite low level, she told me.

I didn't get any students who had taken her class. (Students are recommended to take certain classes in order, but often don't, and there are no prerequisites.) And not only that, I got only seven students, of whom two were there to audit the class and not to gain credit. And they were all very high level. I didn't even know we HAD such high level students at that place.

What fun! We are going to have a ball.

For the second class I got low level students, all Chinese, all majoring in Japanese language education. And again, only seven.

For the third class I had six. Again they were all similar levels, and this time they are all 'Health' majors, and all Japanese.

I am over the moon about this, and don't even mind having so many copies left over. This is the place where I'm likely to have 30 students of widely varying levels. I can't believe these class numbers! It's unheard of to get three in a row like this! The other teachers have not been as lucky. (And I should wait a couple of weeks to celebrate, really, because they can still join until three weeks in, I think.)

But so far, the only real problem I can see is one Chinese student who doesn't speak any English at all, and only vaguely knows the alphabet. Her friends looked at the textbook and suggested that she try the level I class (instead of the level II she wanted to join with them). Her face fell. One of the other students told me confidentially that she should be in a low level class, really, because she has 'no education.'

I told them to wait a moment while I went to check it out. These 'levels' don't mean very much when there are no prerequisites.

I walked down the corridor to where I knew my colleague was teaching level I. As I approached the classroom I could hear uproar. I knocked, and peeked around the door. My colleague was waving her arms and laughing over the noise and was looking happier than I've ever seen her. She had about 20 very exuberant students. Some were shouting in English and some were shouting in Japanese.

I explained the problem, and added quickly that I could already see that her class was not a suitable environment for my shy, anxious Chinese student, and that I would keep her. She agreed. She told me she'd got a wonderfully energetic bunch of students and she was happy. I could see that.

I went back and told my student she could stay, and she almost wept with relief. She LIKED being with her friends. She promised fervently that she would study REALLY hard and try to catch up. Her friends coached her to say it in English.

"I will study really hard!" one of them said. "Repeat after me!"

She listened carefully and turned to me.


It has been a good first day.


Gordon said...

Sounds good - well see how you hold up later on in the year! ;-)

melinama said...

I finally had five minutes put together and the first thing I did was come to your blog, which I always enjoy. If you hadn't told us that it sucked, I would kind of envy your life! Wish you would post a picture of you and the man sometime.

Your writing feels like home. Thank you.