Let us start with the negative, because ‘if it bleeds, it reads.’

I listened to one courageous student who seems to like me as a person, but does not like my teaching methods when it comes to teaching beginners. He went into some detail and I encouraged him to tell me more, even though nobody enjoys to hear this stuff.

He was diplomatic about his criticism and said that maybe it was just his opinion and that everything should not depend on his opinion alone. That is more tact than most adults tend to display. I told him it was a courageous of him to tell me this and that I liked the way he did it.

He pointed towards a sore spot I am abundantly aware of, namely that if you are in my class and bad at English, then you are not being bombarded with word lists and basic grammar exercices, not enough anyway.

According to corridor rumors, we are doing ‘nothing’. I am very self-critical but I would not go so far as to say we do nothing.

Anyway, one aspect is that we went through the school books we have for this year before New Year [we did every exercise and read every text], so together with this one class we decided to buy an extra exercise book we can cover during the rest of the year. I think that might work well in that group, because there I have some of my weakest students. Oddly enough I also have some of my best students there. We talk English all the time, sometimes about quite difficult topics, but I agree the weakest students need a different kind of attention.

What the student does not take into account -and he cannot know this- is that I hope to teach them more than just English, I hope, among other things, to also give them the courage to express themselves respectfully, which based on the lengthy, yet polite, cricitism I got from this student, I am not entirely bad at.

I offered to transfer him to a different group since I was failing him, but he wanted to stay. So eventually we came up with the idea to buy a cheap, separate exercise book. I would have hated to see him go, because he has got a good heart and the courage to speak up, but at the same time it would sadden me a great deal if at the end of the year he were to conclude that we did ‘nothing’.

I am sure though that my colleagues would be entirely on the side of this student and consider me to be a very bad, lazy teacher.

The entire discussion about my teaching methods took place in a pleasant, I would even say serene atmosphere, and quite a few did not agree.

I myself thought the statements of the student were about 70 percent true.

I do think writing the answers to 20 questions is a way to improve your English, but I agree some students need to practice more basic things first.

Other groups had answered the same 20 questions in writing during previous lessons, and now we covered 40 questions orally.

These are more evenly balanced groups and they could answer them smoothly.

On Tuesday four students came to my class voluntarily to improve their English. We played a game in English, but we also wrote sentences in English. They stayed for an hour and a half, until I had to go home.

One student who is not in any of my groups asked if he could be transferred to my group. I think because we laugh quite a bit. But who knows, maybe he thinks we do nothing and maybe he simply wants to do nothing, critics will say.

I doubt it though, because during the brief moment I could teach him today he was very active.

Actually you cannot even imagine how many little emotionally charged issues I had to deal with in only one day of teaching.

One student correctly spelled out that one guy we know is trying to compensate for all his insecurities with silly, ‘tough guy’ posturing.

One guy was asked why he builds such thick walls around him.

An other of my guys came to look for me after class to tell me why he is so tired, I won’t go into details, but he has very valid reasons to be exhausted in class.

I wrote this post because I am allergic to the human reflex of pretending we are some sort of superheroes that know everything best and are the best at everything.

Worth adding:

I did my best today to re-adjust my teaching schedule to the needs of one student.

The same student I allowed to use the internet cable in my office yesterday.

This student often has requests and if at all possible I grant his requests.

Today I noticed that during the hour he himself had asked me to move, he was doing the two things I always ask not to do, eating in my class and being on the phone in my class.

I understand he is a teenager, I understand he is just distracted and not testing my patience on purpose, but it saddened me anyway.

But hey, we laughed a lot today, the students did all I asked of them, even speaking individually in front of the class, one by one, something that scares them, but they all did it, we spoke English all the time, we had a couple of good natured pranks, the sun was shining through the windows, and with the remarks of that one student in mind I did do very basic things with my second batch of beginners.

Think I will be generous today and give myself a 5 and a half out of ten for today, all things considered.


Anyone I know who is good at English did not learn English in school. Which makes you wonder about how we go about educating young people, and the x-factor that is motivation and ‘grit’.