students: we love them and we hate them…?

when recalling my past experience with the bank executive and the leadership course, I caught myself thinking if I’d like to come back to that student one day, if that student was my “red carpet student”, and mostly, how  we define our favourite students.

Are our favourite students…

  • the ones who are easy to work with? Sometimes you are lucky (or are you?) to have classes which you don’t really need to prepare for: you’ve taught this course a hundred times already, so you can repeat everything once again, and mentally rest at the same time. But is it that rewarding and good for your students? and for you? Well, I can’t say I’d recommend that approach: you know all too well, there are no 2 groups or individuals alike, so it always helps if you still go into trouble to tweak and twist some parts of your lesson plan to tailor it for this time.

I used to have a student, for 2 years on and off, a mother of 2 small children. She didn’t really have time for ANY English outside our classes (which were mostly drinking coffee and DOGME-ing about things), and we had to go through all the material endlessly again and again, but still I tried to make it interesting and new for her. Let me share a dreadful secret: once I decided I’d had enough and went unprepared. The lesson went allright, but I ended up feeling guilty, thinking what I might have done better, had I thought about it in advance. All that doesn’t mean, of course, that there is no place for improvisation – there always is, but what I mean is you still should do your best to correspond to your students’ needs in every minor detail.

To be fair, I also had another student, not too young, a mother of 4 grown-up children. Fabulous to work with! A lot of things to talk about, a lot of travelling experiences to remember, a lot of English books read, homeworks mostly done .. an English teacher’s dream)) This was where improvising opportunities never ceased, I was free to test all the new materials and findings on her!

  • the ones who are difficult to work with? because “difficult cases” are what challenges you and makes you develop professionally: you take pains to be better, you prepare more and worry more, and in the end you do become better. If I think back to my groups and individuals, I’d probably agree: none of my favourite students were too easy. However, most of my hard-to-please students made me better: I read a professional book on how search engines work with one of them, and this was what won me a lot of (self-)-respect and ideas for our classes, I developed a material based on completely incomprehensible but very important documents on off-shore trading with some other one, and I even got to understand how the whole process of oil refining worked, with a third one… Not to mention all the new vocabulary and skills I acquired, together with them…
  • the ones you learn from? Which is in most cases interconnected with the difficult ones, but still.. From my students I got to learn a lot of things, like: how search engines operate (fascinating!), what financial future can be expected for our country (not always full information provided, I hope), how an advertising campaign is arranged, some curious features of various corporate cultures, and how to manage a good HR system in a company, and what someone’s boss is like, just to mention a few things.. And what is more important, you learn with your students, too: when you explain relative clauses or teach narrative tenses for the umpteenth time, you finally manage to discover the most efficient way to do it – and this is what you can add to your “teaching solutions pool” and come back to again and again.
  • the ones you still remember with a smile after years…and would love to come back to? Well, easy or difficult, I still remember them and think I am lucky to have taught them, and to have learned from them)) and hopefully, my favourite students remember me with a smile too!

About Svetlana Urisman (Englishteachingnotes)

I am an ADOS and an English teacher (and materials writer) in a language school in Moscow. I have been an ADOS and a teacher trainer for almost a year now and a teacher for about 5 years. I am keen to share some ideas and materials I've developed in order to take them further and not to forget or lose them You are welcome to use any materials represented in this blog, and I will be happy to get your feedback afterwards if you take them to your classroom! ;-)
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