Education and Sympathy

No, this time I’m not begging for sympathy, but rather giving it freely.  We’re restructuring my English classes now that there has been a shift in administration in order to keep excuses to a minimum.  “Traffic, meetings, hungry kids at home, grocery shopping” were all getting in the way of learning, yet, we failed (previously) to arrange a time during work hours which didn’t interfere with the Division’s function.  Our system now is based on a teacher supported system of self-learning (much like home school for adults).  Put simply, each student will be studying through a grammar book on their own and afforded 15+ minute meets with me a week to ask questions, receive additional study materials or simply practice conversation as needed.  This way each student can continue along their own pace and hopefully develop habits and supply resources which will allow them to learn whether or not there is an English teacher at the Division (although hopefully there will always be). 

Now, I’m aware (as you saw in my last post) that I have been well trained in the art of ‘self-teaching’ and not everyone is as familiar with the practice.  So this may lead to difficulties, especially when facing such a challenging subject as language learning.  It’s easy as a teacher to say “study, keep practicing and it will get easier” but in the world of language acquisition it’s important to remember the struggles of starting off (or even perfecting) a new language.  To start with a new language is to strip away a very basic human ability: communication.  Language students find themselves unable to express even the most principle of thoughts, and trust me, there are times it feel dehumanizing. 

Again, easier said than understood.  So as a way to keep linked to the psychological state of my students (I know I’m a strange teacher, no need to remind me) I’ve decided to start up a bit of sympathetic  education.  I’m slowly (and I emphasize slowly) teaching myself French.  Now, remember, this is a sympathy language, so please don’t expect me to be able to communicate when I get home.  But I feel that it’s important to remember what it’s like to memorize a list of 20 vocabulary words if I’m going to require it of my students.  And on top of that, I need to know the levels of reasonable demands on a working adult.  It’s reasonable to expect certain things of full-time students, that may not be as reasonable to expect from Division employees.  So (hopefully) next week we will all begin our journey together. 

But until then I continue my training for simultaneous interpretation as I’ll have to do a bit (or a lot) in November.  I’m getting a bit quicker, but so far I’ve only been practicing from Spanish because I want to get the skills down first, before jumping into my next level of difficulty.  Keep me in your thoughts. 

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