Fraught Feedback and a Hosting Hustle

Sometimes, dear reader, no matter how much you try you cannot be perfect all of the time. Such was the case this week. I have been picking up students from The English Center as there has been a shortage of American English teachers putting their hat in the ring for jobs. But I think it has come back to bite me in the ass.

It hasn’t all been bad. I started with a new student called Mirela who wants pronunciation training. Our first meeting was this Tuesday. During the intake I basically told her that I would find articles for her to read that were interesting to her and we would work on her pronunciation. Her English is off the hook. I would categorize her as advanced but I did notice she made a few grammatical mistakes but they were minor. I think she’s going to be the easy one. She has a PhD in Psychology and her field is on the impact of Psychology on Employee and Customer Relations. I think she will be a joy to teach, as she has a couple of different things underlying her pronunciation. She is from Bosnia but has been in the Netherlands for 20 years so there is some Dutch as well as Bosnian intonation. Hsin Wei Is a little bit more difficult, because while he wants conversation help, his accent is quite strong as he is from Hong Kong. So I do a little bit of accent reduction with him as well in the course of our conversations. He is quite easy because our conversations end up being organic and so even though I prepare a lesson each week, we frequently go off what I have planned and just talk about random things. For example, our conversation last week went from Film to culture in China versus The Netherlands and many other topics.

By far, the most difficult student of the week was, to my surprise not Claudia, but of all people, Vicente. He was presented by The English Center as someone who needs help with writing primarily. But it soon became clear that he is an Upper intermediate level student but on the low-end of that. He makes some significant mistakes with tenses both in speaking and in writing. On Thursday this week, I got an email from him telling me that he was concerned that after 7 1/2 hours of lessons he was not learning fast enough and that his boss was displeased with his progress. What followed was a flurry of emails back-and-forth as well as a conversation on the phone to try and get him to understand that English language teaching at this level and in private is a different animal from University. You see, I didn’t realize that Vicente was a University lecture and expected the course to be completely planned beforehand. Instead, English language teaching is it a business level is building lessons based on mistakes that you hear in the previous lesson. I assured him that I would do my best to make lessons but also invited him to be an active participant in the planning of his lessons. I am also planning on asking him if it’s OK for me to send an email to his manager so that he can give me an idea of what improvements he wants to see but I’m not sure whether that will backfire or not. After ruminating over the problem most of Friday, I decided to also talk to couple of other teachers that I know one from English Center and another a university English language teacher. Based on their advice, I sent an email to the English Center to make them aware of the situation and giving them my action plan for tackling the problem of Vicente. Unlike the problem of Maria, this will not be solved with a song.

I also have another English center client who I am meeting later today as well. It seems that my Tuesdays are crazy busy with teaching from 9 AM straight through almost to 9:30 PM. It is a long teaching day and by the end of it I don’t want to speak to anyone. This client is Dutch and wants vocabulary help. I am planning on doing an intake with him, But I also sent him an email to find out what kind of vocabulary he is looking to learn, general or something specific to his work. As of this writing I have not heard back yet.

In my private client world, Karolina and I have successfully moved her lessons to 630 on Friday evenings and I got to teach her while she was on vacation this week. That was an experience because it was a little bit disconcerting to hear lots of hotel noise in the background. Still, we managed to do a lesson and have a conversation about what sounded like a very relaxing trip to Turkey. I was a bit jealous and can hardly wait for my vaccine so that I can go to Greece and go on vacation myself. Or at least a vacation of sorts since I’m probably still going to be teaching while I’m there. George and Jerry also had to shuffle their schedule this week as they unexpectedly went on vacation so instead of meeting at 10 o’clock in the morning my time we met a bit later and I got to do some lesson planning particularly for Vicente.

This week’s writers group was interesting because they met at my house. Guess who didn’t get any writing done? I was so busy hosting that writing was quite difficult. Also it was Thursday and I had gotten Vicente’s email at 5 o’clock in the evening . I was so stressed out that writing became impossible. Still it was nice to have people in my space even if it took a really long time to clean up afterwards.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

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