There is a show called “Mind Your Langauge” that aired in the UK in the late 70s. It was about a guy named Jeremy Brown teaching an English course to foreigners. It was a comedy, and the whole show was based on word play and misunderstandings of English words. When TLG asked me to teach the School Resource Officers (R.O.), or “mandaturi” as they are known in Georgian, over the summer, I had visions of being the new Jeremy Brown. However, I am half way through the experience and my mind is still completely intact. So I guess it wasn’t meant to be.
Some of the TLGVs that were staying in Georgia over the summer were given the opportunity to work with these R.O.s in an intensive course of English training. There are several groups throughout Tbilisi. I am teaching a pre-intermediate group of around 15 people.
The most impressive part of this whole experience for me is that the course was a voluntary opportunity for the R.O.s and there are quite a number of them who have grabbed this opportunity. They have chosen to give up some of their well-earned free time to do some personal enrichment.
As I mentioned earlier, I was given a pre-intermediate group to work with, and it was with great trepidation that I went to my first lesson, having to teach people who already knew a little English and who were probably mostly older than me. And, to top it all off, I managed to be sick for the first lesson and had no voice. Great start.
I was fearful for nothing. They are such a lovely group of people and I am finding that their working knowledge of English is actually an advantage in my teaching them. We are able to have interesting conversations and they are able to express their views without too much difficulty.
We have been provided with MacMillan textbooks, called “Straight Forward”, which are brand new and are excellent books for teaching adults. The books have a wide variety of topics which are appropriate for adults and while they are teaching English, I think they are also broadening a lot of people’s minds and teaching them things they never thought to learn in an English class.
For example, one of the exercises was to write everything you know about Scotland. Everyone’s list was rather short, but, I luckily know a little about Scotland, so I was able to enlighten them about important things like deep-fried everything, kilts, monsters, Braveheart, the bridge of Weir, etc. They love it. They love hearing about other places – places which many of them will never get to see for themselves.
There are of course challenges which I face doing this job, I think the most important one being, teaching adults, not children. With children there are so many ways to teach them, and most of the most effective methods require an element of goofiness on my part. I needed to keep reminding myself that I was teaching people the age of my parents and I couldn’t be too goofy. It wouldn’t work. Although to be fair, having spent some time getting to know them, I feel like I can be a little crazy and not seem like a complete mental.
The course is fairly intense; we are working our way through 12 modules over the course of 7 weeks, 4 times a week for 1.5 hours per day. It is a lot of work to cover in a very short amount of time, and another challenge. Ensuring that the work is covered and that the students all understand the work requires some very fine and fancy footwork.
There was a time when I started to question my skills as a teacher. Between performing miracles of fitting a huge amount of work into a small amount of time, and ensuring what I taught was understood, I was starting to feel like I was just giving the same lesson everyday. Even though I wasn’t. It requires a lot of mental motivation to ensure you believe that you aren’t a completely useless pedagogue.
This week marked the halfway point, and as a result the students were all a little stressed about their mid-term exam on Wednesday; however, I am pleased to say that a lot of them did well and I feel like we are getting somewhere. I haven’t heard how any of the other groups are faring, but as they say, no news is good news. So let’s imagine the course is as successful for everyone else as it is for myself and my group.
It is nice to work with a group of people who are motivated, and interested in being where they are; it makes the job of teaching a little easier. I look forward to the next 6 modules and seeing my students grow in their English ability.
So, just in case you thought everyone was having a nice summer doing nothing but sitting at the beach and eating ice-cream, you are wrong. There is a group of very hardworking people doing their best to understand what the differeince between “going to” and “will” is – And suceeding quite well.