It’s nearly October and I’m still alive. Now that calls for a celebration! As ever, I won’t be at all sorry to see September go. Or October for that matter. November has always been the best month of the year for me, when I can finally sit back and enjoy the rewards of my previous ten months’ toil. At least for a couple of weeks before the Christmas madness sets in.
Meanwhile back in September, I’ve spent most of the past four weeks with my eyes glued to the computer screen, answering anxious emails from customers and colleagues, while skyping and sounding out students about their intentions for the year ahead. It’s tough in the middle.
In the absence of anything remotely interesting to tell you, here’s a summary of what to expect when you ask 200 investigators from a local research and development company whether they would like to attend English classes this year...
140 people – 70% of the respondents – will ignore you completely. That’s from a good client and on a good year, so don’t let it get to you! Focus your efforts instead on the 60 sensitive souls – the remaining 30% – who take the time to reply, exactly half of whom will express an interest in your services; while the other half would have you believe that they have better things to do with their lives. A likely story.
Among the 30 people who reply to you positively, 21 of the respondents – or 70% if you prefer – will follow your instructions by offering a short but unambiguous YES:
“Yes, I am interested”
“YES = Yes, I am interested”
And so on. I love receiving mails like these! Don’t you? No buts, no questions; just tell me what the next step is, please.
A minority – 3 people (10%) – will go out of their way to reassure you of their good intentions for the year ahead:
“I will make an effort” (MA)
“I will do my best to attend the maximum of classes” (HG)
“I will try!!!” (FM)
Meanwhile, 3 others (10%) will do their best to draw you into a discussion. Fortunately, you know better than to get bogged down at this early stage in the game, don’t you?:
– “Your best students are looking forward to attending your lessons” (PO)
– “Really looking forward to catching up with you soon, P.” (MC)
– “In September I’ve passed the exam!” (BN)
– “Congratulations, B! That's wonderful news! Very happy for you!” (MC)
– “How was the summer?” (PR)
– “Hi, P. Summer was great! Yours? We'll catch up soon” (MC)
And then there are the troublemakers, the “Yes, but”s. Yes, there are only 9 of them – 30% – but even so it’s enough to ruin your plans for a relaxing weekend away from your PC:
“I prefer from 8 to 9 AM” (IA)
“I can't do 8-9” (JP)
“I prefer classes at 12.30” (LH)
“At midday if it is possible” (KI)
“I can't go on Fridays” (AB)
“I prefer if one of the days is Friday” (UD)
“I can't go on Fridays” (GB)
– “I can only attend on Mondays” (LM)
– “Thanks, L... That's still a 50% improvement on last year ;)” (MC)
Not to mention the double troublemakers:
“I can’t go on Tuesdays and I can’t do 8-9” (PL)
There’s no answer to that one, is there?
By a remarkable coincidence, of the 30 people who reply to you negatively, 21 of the respondents – 70% again – will reply with a short but sweet NO:
“NO = No thanks”
The occasional thoughtful correspondent – a dying breed – will try not to hurt your feelings:
– “My answer is ‘No thanks’. Nice to hear from you every year :))” (AO)
– “Good to see that you are maintaining your excellent level of English, A! :)” (MC)
Others, however, couldn’t care less about your feelings:
“Hi there, I'm not interested” (XE)
A respectable minority – 20% of the “No”s – will leave the door open just in case they need to return to the fold one day:
“Next time maybe” (AL)
“Maybe in future years I can go back” (AG)
“I see it impossible at the moment” (AL)
“Hope to join the classes in the future” (MU)
“I am not currently interested” (AA)
And when one of your favourite students tells you he’s not planning to continue this year, you laugh it off; even if, in reality, you want to cry:
– “I'm sorry but this year I will not go to the classes” (JA)
– “J! I was counting on you. We will cancel the entire project if you don't participate” (MC)
J, bless him, is quick to bring you to your senses, playing along with you while promising to return with a vengeance the following year:
In addition to those fobbing you off with their feeble excuses, there will usually be a couple of people – 10%? – who are almost justified in taking a year’s sabbatical:
– “We will have Basque lessons (2 days in the morning 7.30-9) so it will be too much" (AG)
– “What a pity! Anyway, I hope we still see you occasionally” (MC)
– “This winter (all being well) I’ll become the father of two little babies :)” (IS)
– “Congratulations! Take care and see you around” (MC)
And, finally, we have the lone Latin lover:
"Vir sapiens pauca loquitur"
Thank goodness for Google translator, I say. So, I shot back with:
"Post eventum facile sapere"
Only to be outsmarted once more by my formidable opponent:
"Post eventum vani sunt questus"
Which, roughly translated, means something like, “It’s no use crying over spilt milk”, doesn’t it? Well, anyway, the ball is back in my court now. Any suggestions as to how I should proceed? Personally, I find looking up obscure Latin proverbs on Google far more stimulating than assigning students to English classes. Then again, Varitatio delectat.
Ironically, it took a dead language to liven up Colin’s schooldays. He was fortunate to have had the most marvellous Latin teachers in the land, albeit with very English-sounding surnames: Clark, Cooper and Wilson. They sounded like a building society, and indeed they were just that: they were “building society”, for they lived and loved their language to such an extent that their enthusiasm was infectious even if, at the end of the day, there was a limit to how often you would ever need to order two pints of lager and a packet of salt ’n’ vinegar crisps in Latin.
dayrealing, Chapter 25, “Wonderful Life”
Diploma in English Language Teaching to Anyone, July 2011
Module One, Paper 1, Task 2
The painful truth is this: regardless of teacher, method, resources or techniques, a good student will always learn and a bad student never will.
How do you cope with being a redundant piece of furniture in the classroom?
Once again, a large percentage of candidates happily admitted that they are “a complete waste of space” and “totally superfluous to the learning process”. Many proceeded to belt out their sob-sob stories of “I never wanted to do this, anyway”, “I should have listened to my evil stepmother”, “I wanted to be a lumberjack”, and so on.
It had been hoped that candidates would argue that there is a place for the teacher in the language classroom – in the corner, on the floor, at the back, under the desk, etc. – and that they have a vital role to play: stimulating interest, organising practice, presenting language, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Several candidates did in fact take this line, while one bright spark passed automatically on account of her including the phrases “source of knowledge”, “font of wisdom” and “facilitator of information” in her opening sentence.
fifty shades of Spain, chapter 35, “Lumberjack Song”