Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Friday, January 27, 2006


by AJ

"The atmosphere of a school is so important... a school [can become] like a great newspaper office, bustling with excitement, everyone busy and engaged, working together and working on their own projects with purpose and passion. If you put good people in an environment that allows them to continue learning and that reinforces their risk taking, their passion, and their commitment, then you can make good people great. You can make ordinary people extraordinary just by giving them the right environment in which to do their thing and letting them grow."


Reinforce their risk taking. Thats the key for me. Traditional school creates timid students. Traditional education scares the shit out of them... pounds them every time they take a risk. "The nail that sticks up gets hammered", thats the anthem of most traditional schools.

Small wonder that my students are skeptical. They are afraid of risk... especially when I up the stakes by pushing them into the "real world". But "the real world" is why they are in school. They want to function in America. They want to understand ordinary Americans, to socialize with Americans, to communicate with Americans. They want to understand movies. They want to make friends. They want to attend American universities... or get jobs. Theyll never accomplish these things unless they start using English outside of school.

Most students tell me they rarely use English once they leave class. They spend their days alone, or with other students. Clearly this is a problem. For most, social & cultural opportunities were the reason they left home and came to SF to study. They are frustrated.

But that doesnt mean they jumped for joy when I announced the retirement home visit. Our past field trips were passive... we walked through a museum and library. But this time they will meet new people and interact with them. They will lead an activity. To do that, they must communicate in English. There will be no grades, of course. But as Littky notes, real world activities have real world consequences.. and those are much more powerful than grades.

I know what the students are thinking. They're afraid they won't be understood. They're afraid the residents will not join their activity.. or won't like it. They're afraid it will flop. Well, welcome to the real world!! I feel that way everyday, before every class :) But Ive learned to live with the uncertainty.

It comes down to confidence. Confidence doesnt come from test scores. Confidence comes from meeting real-world challenges.