I wanted to tell you that it was not correct but the activity was going
so slowly that I didn't want to prolong it by interrupting.
may try to guess who uttered the sentence above. Or I may well reveal it right
away. It wasn't the teacher - it wasn't me. It was one of my students; one of
the best ones, I should stress. The thing is that I wasn't concentrating
enough, or I may have been concentrating on something else, and I overlooked a
minor mistake somebody had made while we were checking an exercise. The strong
students are always alert; they are watchful, like on tree stand hunting. As
they have nothing better to do - they were the first to finish and thus they
are a little bored - they have plenty of time to look around and listen while
others struggle to get their answers right. Despite paying close attention to the
struggling student, I may easily overlook the incorrect or imprecise part. I
usually do realize it a couple of minutes later and I try to fix it by telling the class apologetically;
however, I do so only when a minor mistake becomes important
because the language item is the focus of the exercise. In a mixed-ability
class like this, the response I usually
get from the crowd, in the form of an almost inaudible and incomprehensible
mutter, is usually something along the lines: Oh dear, didn't I say it? And
I respond, amused but rather impatiently: “So why didn't you tell us if you knew? You
would have made things easier for me - for all of us”. And then the same
student adds: “I wanted to tell you that it was not correct but the
activity was going so slowly that I didn't want to prolong it by interrupting”.
Now I don't know whether to thank the student politely or shoot another
impatient look at him. This was a reproach in disguise, of course. I wonder why
incidents like this make me feel so frustrated. But then I sit at a staff meeting and the boss claims something we all know is wrong. But nobody dares to object openly; either because they don't want to upset the boss or because they want to go home as soon as possible. That's when I think of the cheeky student and I'm grateful for his honesty.
another thing that bothers me. I feel rather schizophrenic about my attitude
towards my almost grown-up students. They are 17 or 18 so I feel I should treat
them as adults. I shouldn't reproach and scold them. But there's this thing
about homework, latecomers and disruptive chatting; what should I do when 50%
of them haven't done their homework? Shall we check it with those 50% or leave
it till the next time, when everybody has completed (
copied) it? I know
that for some students homework is a waste of time, but is it fair not to
require it from them? And what about the latecomers? Not only is tardiness violation
of the school rules and latecomers will officially be punished anyway, but most importantly, it is disturbing and impolite. Also, I
feel really embarrassed when I have to scold an 18-year-olds who are chatting
and laughing out loud because something hilarious has caught their attention.
The other day one of the students almost had a nervous breakdown after somebody
had laughed out loud and she thought they'd laughed at her.
think I know why these things bother me. I think it's because deep inside I wish I
could gain control over everything in the class, which I obviously can't. I like discipline but I hate enforcing it. I hate bossing people around. I want
everybody to be happy, including myself, which is not possible, of course. The thing is that if
you work hard and plan a lesson thoroughly, you somehow expect that things will go according
to plan. But why can't I just apply all the wonderful tips EFL teachers share on the internet? Why can't I just teach the language the way I think is best for my students? Why is teaching so complicated? Why is it not straightforward and predictable? I really hate to ask questions you'd expect from a novice, and I hate the feelings of powerlessness after so many years of experience. Well, maybe I should be thankful for all
those feelings in the end. Perhaps, without them I wouldn’t be able to
enjoy the successes. How would I actually know a lesson went well without having experienced a feeling of despair and failure? Would I want to improve my teaching if I thought there is nothing to work on? There's no point in answering suggestive and rhetoric questions. But it always helps me to ask them....