Don't be THIS student.

Whose fault is it if you don't learn English?

Do you feel that your lack of progress is due to a bad teacher, a stupid teacher, a lazy teacher or an inefficient teacher?

Classroom interaction goes both ways. You can have the best teacher in the world, but if you're not responsible for your own learning, you're going to have problems. People always talk about different kinds of bad teachers...now it's my turn to talk about "bad" students.

After twelve years in the classroom, it's fairly easy to identify the students who won't make progress. Or, worse, the students who won't make progress, and say that it's TOTALLY the teacher's fault.

#1: THE LUMP. Maybe it's not fair to start with The Lump, but I will anyway, because I think that if all The Lumps were taken out of classes, life would be a lot easier for everyone. Somehow, The Lump always manages to be someone with a lot of money. The Lump never talks. Never. "You're the teacher; you is the one who is paid to talk. English class was not my idea; the Human Resources department needs to use up its budget this year and I was the only one who didn't participate in the regular classes. Besides, I don't need English. I have done the Proficiency exam since ten years ago and my English is good." And that's all you hear from The Lump: The Lump then sits with her arms crossed over her chest, staring at you like you came from Mars. The Lump will happily sit there for forty hours in that position! (Don't laugh. It's happened.)

#2: MR./MRS. PANIC. "Yes? Hello? I'm calling to find out about English classes for my son/daughter. My son/daughter is writing the TOEFL/IELTS/PTE/First/Advanced/Proficiency/BULATS the day after tomorrow and needs help with the exam. [Pause.] No, this is the first time s/he has written the exam. [Pause.] No, s/he doesn't have a textbook to help him/her study. [Pause.] No, s/he doesn't attend an English school. [Pause.] No, s/he doesn't have English classes outside of class. [Pause.] Eighty Euros an hour? Can't bring the price down a little bit?"

I always have this conversation with mothers, not with fathers. I think fathers would probably kill their kids for leaving exam preparation until the last minute, which kids almost always do. And no mother has ever paid €80 an hour for English classes...because mothers are smart! Mothers realize that English teachers are teachers...they're not miracle workers!!

#3: THE PATIENT. "Ohhh, my head hurts so much. I think I have the flu. Now, don't forget that you have to correct me on everything that I say wrong. You never correct me when I say thinks wrong. That's what I said, thinks! This cold is just so awful. I just got a cold and now I'm getting another cold. And I'm so tired! I don't know how you English teachers work so hard! Everyone is very so sick these days...no, that's what I said, so very sick...oh, I think I need an aspirin. And it's so cold in here!"

#4. THE NAG: "What do you mean, you don't have extra photocopies from that class we did six months ago? Why aren't you listening to my problems? Why are you so tired? It's not my fault that you've already taught for nine hours today! Sorry, excuse me? Where's my homework? What do you mean, homework? I'm an important person! I have no time for homework! I have an important job and I have children and it takes me an hour to drive here every morning, and I don't have time for anything silly like homework! Homework is for idiots! I pay you to put English in my head, not to give me homework! Now pay attention to ME!"

#5. THE LEGO LANGUAGE EXPERT. "For me, learning English is very ok, but, oh! Why no is more like Spanish? Why not can I take my Spanish words and only translate them directly into English and put them where always I put Spanish words. Is not fair!!" (This person has probably been trying to learn English for, oh, twenty years or so.)

To be fair, we all have days like this. But if you find that your inner dialogue starts sounding like this all the time, you will find that you'll make more progress if you change the way you think about learning.


Paul said...

I have to agree with all of these!! Although 'the lump' doesn't have to be a woman!

A spot on assessment! "I don't have time to do homework, I'm far too busy" (yes but you have plenty of time to have multiple coffees with workmates and complain that you didn't leave the office til at least 8pm last night)

English Advantage said...

The Panic Parent is a frequent visitor as is the student who meanders in a week before the TOEFL/IELTS and says, "I am pass TOEFL test If to start Monday, test Friday, enough time?"

And when you suggest that maybe they aren't ready to pass the TOEFL let alone try to get into an MS in Engineering at MIT, they look at you like you're crazy. I just need to prepare for the TOEFL. One week is ok.