Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Community, not a "class"

by AJ

I LOVE tutoring (or "coaching") with the Linguist. Simply LOVE it.

Its not because of the pay... I get paid far more at my school, and from my freelance clients.

Its not because the system is excellent... although it certainly is.

Its because of the students. They are the most enthusiastic and self-directed students I've ever met. These guys are excited about English... and about learning in general. They take initiative. They don't sit back passively waiting for the teacher/tutor/coach to tell them what to do. They seek out interesting content on their own. They enthusiastically listen to audio, read, and watch TV. Some have their own blogs in English.

The Linguist does not have "classes"... they have an online community. The students often chat with each other. They visit each other's blogs. They encourage one another.

In this community, there is still a role for a tutor. But its very different than what you find in a traditional classroom. In a class, the teacher is the boss, the director, the judge, the initiator. Students, not surprisingly, are relegated to a passive role.

But in a community like The Linguist, my role is totally different. I'm a resource. I'm an advisor. I'm someone with valuable skills (native English fluency) that other community members hope to acquire. None of the community members depend on me. Our interactions contain none of the "master-student" dynamics so common in traditional classrooms.

This has benefits for me as well as them. I learn a great deal from these community members-- approaches, strategies, and suggestions I can apply to my own language learning (Spanish). I also benefit from the energy and enthusiasm. I don't feel tired after a discussion on The Linguist. Quite the opposite-- I'm energized.

The Linguist presents a learning model that is more enjoyable, more effective, and more efficient than the classroom model. While their particular community is an online one, there is no reason such a model couldn't be replicated in an actual physical space. This might be a community of learners in a city who help, support, encourage, and share with one another. Such a community would be made up of a mix of nationalities. It might even involve learners of different languages. Who says we must segregate language learning?

For example, why not a group of native Spanish speakers and a group of native English speakers together in a learning community... helping each other learn their respective languages.... Holding discussions in both languages... Organizing social events in both languages... Finding tutors/coaches/mentors in both languages.... Creating a library of audio, text, & video in both languages....

In such a scenario, the tutor becomes a facilitator & organizer & resource, rather than an authority figure. His/her job is to schedule discussions, organize a great content library, bring in interesting guest speakers/tutors, answer questions, MOTIVATE & ENCOURAGE (perhaps job #1), bring people together, and guide learners to self-sufficiency.

Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like what Steve Kaufman is doing at The Linguist :) I'm thinking I need to try to do this with a face to face community here in San Francisco.

Stay tuned.......

San Francisco, CA