Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Friday, December 09, 2005

Change of Game Plan

by AJ

Im floundering in the classroom. I dont have a good feel for my students needs. Im out of the groove. Things just arent clicking. For the last four days Ive been frustrated (with myself). Ive been brainstorming, reading, whacking myself in the head (literally :) -- but nothing has worked.

So, Ive decided to switch gears. Give my brain a rest and focus on what I DO know.

Because I have identified one HUGE need. My students want to make friends.. especially American friends. Some are lonely. Some are shy. All express a desire to make connections with Americans.

So Ill put the in-class linguistics issues aside for a bit and focus on this very important non-linguistic need.

Step one: Ive already talked to the Director of the school about starting a social program.. and he liked the idea. So, Ill be starting up a volunteer social program. The idea is to bring in American (or other English speaking) volunteers along with our students... then provide regular social activities for them to meet and mix.

Ive done this before... when I was a social worker... and it worked fantastically well. So, over the next three weeks Ill be deciding on meeting times and location, making fliers, and planning social outings.

2. Interest clubs. Once the social club is going (which may take a while), I may try to form some after-school interests clubs (or, more to the point, encourage students to start them). I envision clubs grouped around specific topics such as hip-hop music, food, sports/fitness, dance, karaoke, etc... Id like to open these groups to the public as well, for two purposes. One, these may attract native speakers and thus friendship opportunities for students. And two, these may attract students at other schools... and give us a chance to steal them!

3. Partner with Volunteer Agencies. One of my students expressed an interest in volunteering. Which got me to thinking about my social work background. Which got me to thinking about creating alliances with various agencies that offer volunteer programs. First, Ill probably invite folks from these agencies to speak to my students. For example, a social worker could talk to us about the homeless situation in the city (in English). As a follow-up, we could take a field trip to the agency and talk to some of their clients. We could also visit other agencies, talk to volunteers, and help out by volunteering for fundraising events, etc...

4. Dust Off the Social Work Skills: Since all of the students expressed a degree of culture shock, isolation, etc.... why not mimic a support group... give the students a chance to discuss their problems, and possible solutions. So many students feel lonely, but they say nothing.

I felt the same way when I came to Bangkok. When I went to Thai class, one of my strongest wishes was for more social programs. I wished the school had provided regular activities outside of the classroom.... to help me make friends with my classmates... and with Thai people.

So why not read articles about culture shock, read other people's culture shock experiences, discuss issues of isolation, discuss social customs, discuss strategies for making friends...... Ill need to calibrate the linguistic content, but the topics will at least be relevant to the students immediate and everyday lives.

Thats my plan for the remainder of this month... and for next month. If I can get some of these programs going, Ill revisit the linguistic issues and see if I can develop a better structure to my classes. Until then, I hope to at least facilitate helpful, interesting, and inspiring OUT-OF-CLASS experiences.