Teaching More Than English

teacher at blackboardA month of my writing class has gone by. This class is a great bunch of adult students (18+) who are, for the most part, cooperative.  Most come to class regularly. Most take notes. Most pay attention. I’m happy teaching people who want to learn. I especially enjoy teaching adults who have a purpose for being in school.

Right from the beginning, I can pick out the ones who will succeed. These people are engaged because they have their eyes on the prize. They can see through the long tunnel of classes to the end where their diploma lies. They are serious about learning to make a better life for themselves and the people around them. I admire them. I will stand on my head to help them achieve their goal of getting through my class because they want to learn.

My hardest task is dealing with people who are just taking up space.

Today I had a student tell me,  “She don’t write like that.”

I couldn’t believe it! I couldn’t imagine talking to my teacher like that–in any grade.

I looked her directly in the eye and told her she was in my class to learn how to write properly, so she could communicate with others of authority, get through college required courses without appearing stupid. Needless to say, this smart little chickie in the front row had little to say for the rest of the class.

Sometimes I have to restrain myself from shaking some of these young people and shout, “WAKE UP!”  In one smart-ass comment, this girl announced she wasn’t interested in learning. Perhaps she thinks because this is a  basic class, it will be easy. Sorry, honey. Once you get through the basic classes in college, you realize they are the hardest ones in the curriculum. If her attitude gets in her way, she won’t pass my class because she will continue to “don’t write like that.” Then she will have to repeat the class with someone else after she grows up and realizes she doesn’t know everything.

One of the first assignments I gave this class was to write a paragraph about their BIG dream. Basically, I want to see how they see themselves. More often than not, I see mundane dreams. For instance, “I need an education so I can get a better job.” Or, “My father always said I’d be a good cop.” Or, “I like to be outside so I thought I’d try being a civil engineer.” Really? Has the pressures of life made them limit themselves to the point where they can’t even dream?

I’m paid to teach all the nuts and bolts of our language–in a word, grammar. But what I really try to do everyday in the classroom is get them excited about learning. I try to raise their level of curiosity, so they will go and seek answers to their questions. I want to inspire them to reach for something bigger than just an entry level job that requires a two-year degree. I want them to want more.

And if I get one out of a class of twenty students, to buy into being excited about asking questions, then I’ve achieved 1/20th of my goal. But I can be happy with that because I know that one person will go on and inspire one more person.

All anyone needs to hear is, “It’s okay to dream. Dream big. If you have dream, you can make a plan to get there. Life is short. Make your dream come true.”

5 thoughts on “Teaching More Than English

  1. It must be so difficult to try to teach people who don’t want to learn (or don’t want to change the way they do things). You’re much braver and tougher than I am! Keep up the good work 😀

  2. Pingback: Into the fire- that first class | ehhamakita

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