Just because you can...

doesn't mean you should.

One of the reasons why I created this blog was because I wanted to give students a source of information on how to improve their English. What isn't obvious, however, is that improving your English means having a good relationship with your teacher. To have a good relationship with your teacher, it's important to get off on the right foot (=to start well/badly) with that person. (I've touched on this topic before on the blog: http://tinyurl.com/2upr77v)

Here's how you can get off on the wrong foot with a new teacher, and guarantee that you'll be looking for someone new very quickly.

S. calls me on Wednesday and doesn't leave a message. Normally, I don't call people back if they can't be bothered to leave a message, but, for some reason, I do. When we start speaking, it becomes obvious that he doesn't like speaking, so I try to find out as much information as I can. It isn't much. He wants to speak in English. (Don't we all?) We agree to meet the next day to talk about I can help him.

So the next day, I run out of a class to meet S. on the other side of the city. The conversation lasts about ten minutes, and I don't get much more information out of him. He's in a university course that is very grammar- and vocabulary-intensive, but they don't get a lot of chances to speak. OK, I say, so why do you want to hire a teacher? There are a lot of different ways to practice your English for free.... arrange an intercambio or go to a pub night. (The guy is a university student, after all. I'm assuming he's seen the inside of a pub or two in his life.) Shrug. Not sure. I'm not getting a good feeling about this. We arrange to meet the next day for an hour and a half of class.

It turns out that the hour and a half we were supposed to have at lunchtime becomes thirty minutes before dinner. It was painful. I go to his university residence, because he doesn't want to come to the office, and when I get to the (all-male) residence, I have to wait ten minutes for him to come down to get me.

Then he insists on taking me up to his dormitory room, which was disastrous: Clothes all over the place, notebooks, padel ball racquet - and the smell. Oh, dear readers....that smell. If you could put that essence of "teenage boy" odor in a bottle, you could use it as a repellent for small animals. (There were teaching rooms available in the residence, but he didn't want to take one in case someone needed it. It must be a very demanding university, indeed, if they expect a bunch of twenty-something young men to attend classes at 7:20 PM on a Friday night.) I'm not sure which was more difficult, frankly - trying to teach while only breathing in and out of my mouth, or trying to pin S. down to a regular schedule and get some information out of him.

In the end, I'm guessing that S. probably will not have class this coming Friday, either. Students who don't have a clear idea of what they want to do usually don't keep up with classes, and it seems a waste of time to hire someone just because you want to talk.

Please remember that finding a teacher is a lot like finding a husband or a wife. If you want to have a productive, healthy, long-lasting relationship that helps you grow and get better, first impressions are important.

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