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When a student registers for a class, they not only want to ‘learn stuff’, they always want more information and advice on how to get better. Very few people just sit and go. Learning ESL in particular involves a lot of questioning and seeking of opportunities.
This is where this subject is not like others. At university you can sit and digest and work on projects together, but not often do you have a student go to their lecturer and ask them, ‘how can I get better at this subject?’ unless they haven’t done well and have to know more to pass the course. (maybe some of you lecturers out there may disagree!)….Anyway….
This is where you the teacher can really nail your presence with your class. I know it isn’t easy for new teachers because you have to build experience, and the last thing you feel is that you are a ‘trusted advisor’, but there will come a point where you will realise that you know a lot, and that’s the time to open the door.
The next thing of course to do after that is (as there will be an avalanche of requests), is to learn ho to manage the questions, the approaches, the monitoring etc. This is a second skill the work on. But honestly, I can tell you, if you can build this kind of rapport, your future is sealed.
Managing the avalanche is fund too. You may find that though students will approach you and ask, there have come to you for a variety of reasons:
- They want additional resources to help them
- They like you and want to talk to you anyway
- They want to practice their English, even for only a few minutes…
- They genuinely feel they are weak in an area and want feedback if this is true
The first thing to do is to work out which approach they are following.
- The first one is quite easy and they will appreciate whatever texts or handouts that help them.
- The second one is a ‘feel good’ one, and make sure you give them at least 30 sec to 1 minute, and even walk with them back to your office…but finish it with a laugh and a smile before you go through the door.
- The third one is similar to No. 2 but requires also some confidence building sentence like ‘wow your English has improved so much this much…’ etc. That sentence from you may be all they need to take away.
- The final one is often the best one because it is clear the student feels you are the one to help them solve their problem. Firstly, you need to make sure they know you understand how hard it is for anyone to get fluent in English, and that you understand their specific problem. Having a couple of handy ‘tricks’ up your sleeve that they can try at home is often a good way to get them thinking. Don’t overload them with more than one or two ideas, and always follow up the next day with them by asking if they’d tried out the idea.
The ultimate thing that stops teachers from wanting to be their students trusted ESL advisor, is that they feel the students will take advantage of their time and become too demanding. This of course can be true, but learning how to manage that aspect of them is also part of the job. Once you learn how to do that, you will find they will respect you a lot more. Sometimes giving them a little time, then letting them move on is all they need.
What are your experiences as a teacher with this kind of thing?