Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Real World: SF

by AJ

Just read Sierra's post on "What's most meaningful for your users/students"?... great as always.

It got me to thinking... just what is meaningful to my students? Why do they come to class?

The first, knee-jerk answer is "to learn English". But WHY do they want to learn English? What is the purpose or meaning of English for them? English, after all, is just a tool for most of them. Their real goals.. their ultimate goals... lie outside the school. Some may want the extra money that a better job will bring... and they hope English will help them get that job. Some may feel trapped in their home cultures, and want to live in America.. where they feel more personal freedom. Some may want to marry/date an American. Some want to go to an American University-- for academic reasons, or professional reasons.. or just to have fun in another country.

Im still not sure what my students ultimate goals are and why they have them. But I do at least have a clearer idea of their immediate goals. Their immediate goals mostly have to do with real life social encounters.

They want to go to a party and connect with Americans. They want American boyfriends or girlfriends. They want to have American friends. They want to go to a shop and talk to the clerk without feeling confused or embarrassed. They want to understand the conversations they hear in stores, on the bus, etc. They want to connect more with the culture and have more fun here..... be able to participate in clubs, activities, events, etc. without feeling clueless. They want to FEEL competent and confident.

Their goals, for the most part, are social/emotional.

And so I ask myself, "Is what Im doing in class helping them meet these social/emotional goals?"

And my honest answer is, "Not really!"

I know I need to radically restructure "the curriculum". I know I need to bring in real world conversations.... audio or videotaped out in the real world. I know I should use movies everyday as a means of teaching common, idiomatic, spoken American English. I should move faster on getting a volunteer social program going. I should have more guest speakers on a range of cultural topics. I should build more interactivity into our field trips. I should talk to my boss about starting an internship/mentor/apprenticeship program. I should burn real-life recorded conversations onto CDs/MP3s and give them to students for home listening.

Ideally, Id like to do all of this quickly... fast revolutionary change.

But Im broke and I dont like spending lots of non-work time doing my job. So Ill do what Tom Peters and Kathy Sierra and every other innovation guru says you should not do... Ill try to implement these things gradually.