Wednesday, September 11, 2013

First Week Is Stressful

It is for me, at least. My classroom is kind of a mysterious place for me right now. I haven't quite gotten to know all the kids' names yet, and even when I do, I don't know who they are. I'm seeing flutterings of kids opening up. I'm noticing smiles here and there, and I really like seeing that some of my students are starting to feel comfortable.

Some of them are feeling free to speak spontaneously, but they're a distinct minority. I want them all to know they are free to say what they like, to answer questions, to be right, to be wrong, to speak their minds.

One of the really good things about teaching ESL, about teaching language, is you're successful if you can get students to produce it. On the other hand, it's one of the toughest things you can do. Kids come from other countries and they're set in their ways. What's more basic than speaking your native language?

But then they see me and I tell them NO you may NOT use your native language AT ALL. Not ONE WORD.

And thus there is the girl who sits in the back of my afternoon class not uttering anything whatsoever, the girl who yesterday spoke three times in her native language. On the third time, after having warned her twice, I moved a boy who does not speak her native language between her and the girl with whom she was speaking. He was pretty happy to be sitting between two girls, but she was having none of it. I asked her a question today and she responded with cold stony silence. It didn't seem a good idea to press the matter.

But my kids will speak English or nothing. And the problem, really, is that the latter option is almost as unacceptable as use of the native language. So I have to trick this girl into speaking English. She can't know I'm manipulating her. I think I will make her do it in the end.

But right now, I have no idea how I'm gonna do that.
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