ENGLISH TEACHING ANECDOTES.
It is funny how after teaching for almost six years, not one specific incident stands out. What I recall are the everyday happenings and occurrences. Some amusing, others startling and a few plain annoying.
During the first year I taught in Barcelona, Spain, I was actually thrown in at the deep end. I had done the TEFL course and taught grownups as part of the course. My first job consisted of business classes, adults, teens and children. As everybody knows, it was the children that were the most difficult and tiring. The youngest one in one of the groups was only three years old and could just about speak his own language. He had the cutest little face and although he tried real hard to follow, it was all beyond him. He would say to me, “Es que me cuesta mucho.” It’s really hard for me.
In another group, an eight year old terror run amok at all times, pinching and biting and disturbing the little girls in the class. His parents thought he was a genius and would hear no bad word about him. In the meantime, all the girls clamored for my hand as we sang “a ring of roses” for the umpteenth time. To be fair, they had to take turns to hold my hands as anything else would have seemed like favoritism.
It must have been the following year that I had Maribel for a student. She was an office worker in her fifties who had been having English classes for thirty years and who had still not got beyond Lower Intermediate. She argued about grammatical points because she had been making the same mistakes for so long and had come to the conclusion that her grammar was good as no one bothered too much to correct her. After a weekend visit to London on a package tour, she came back convinced she knew all there was to know about the city. There was no convincing her that there was more to London than Piccadilly Circus.
I also had a class with a very enthusiastic student called Javier. He had gone from speaking zero English to speaking quite fluently in four years. If you brought up a subject he was into, food and wine for example (he was into gourmet), there was no stopping him. Fortunately it was a one to one class. I would sometimes literally be waiting for him to catch his breath so I could say time was up, and we often ran over a good fifteen minutes. He was definitely keen. If he made a mistake, he would dramatically make gestures of stabbing himself to show how annoyed he was with himself. He kind of looked like a brilliant but crazy scientist.
I have a special needs student at present who is so childlike even though he is a full adult. He always asks me at the end of each class, “My level is good, no?” to which I reply, “Ricardo that should be -My level is good, isn’t it?” He is adorable. He takes everything literally even when someone makes a joke and gets upset if he feels I have paid too much attention to another student who needed help.
Another memorable one is Luisa who has a speech impediment and cannot pronounce what seems like half the alphabet. Cheese and chips are pronounced the same by her. The letter X comes out like SH. She is fun though because she is the first to laugh at herself after our repeated pronunciation exercises.
Basically, there is no standard class as the dynamics vary according to the students. I have found that humor works well. Incorporating pop music gossip wins teenagers over, and structured, fun and varied lessons keep busy adults interested. A lot is learnt on a day to day basis and it is a continuous process. Teaching adults and business people does have the added advantage of informing one on a range of topics and sectors, depending on what their jobs are. As I have only taught in Spain, I cannot compare with elsewhere but I dare say that the experience is bound to be very similar across age groups and settings.