Wrenching Renewal and Workshop Worries

Growing up, dear reader, my biggest source of conflict with my family was the idea that I was always quite negative. But, I rationalize this with the idea that I was a teenager and all teenagers are full of angst. After all, if the boy that you love doesn’t love you back when you’re 16 it’s the end of your world. As I got older, I realized that I was rather more of a quiet optimist. I like to think that I remain optimistic but I will say that happiness is a choice and making that choice can be quite difficult. So it proved this week at Inkreadable. In private client world, things proceed well with both George and Jerry and with Odhran. I have found a good rhythm for preparation for both clients with George and Jerry because we have a book it’s quite easy to expand on the material in the book when it proves to be too simplistic for them. The challenge there is that because of George’s speech impediment it’s sometimes very difficult to understand him and as I end the lesson with him, that makes it a little bit more difficult. With Odhran and Greek, his mom really likes the progression of the books that we’ve been using, while I find them a little bit too simplistic. They deal with literacy and that can be good when trying to teach the Cyrillic alphabet. He does quite well with the it, but it’s quite clear that he doesn’t understand what he’s reading and instead is reading phonetically. I was never much of a fan of Hooked on Phonics in the States which shows children as young as 3 reading with fluency. They may be reading but do they understand what they’re reading? Such as the case with Odhran and Greek. While he reads quite well there are still issues with intonation and word stress. He often says that he doesn’t understand what he’s reading.

My challenge with Lillian in China is trying to figure out how to fill an hour with pronunciation techniques. I’m not sure if you’ll remember, dear reader, the two students that I had for pronunciation a few months ago. I’m running into some of the same challenges with Lillian. The plan for our 16-hour package is to get her to sound a little bit more American when giving mock classes and presentations. While I understand what she does with her intonation and her voice it can be a little bit hard to correct as she is used to non-rhotic British English. Getting her to say the letter r and speak more in the back of the throat than the front of the mouth can be a challenge. This week was also not without its sadness. While Sander renewed with me for another package, it is a full 5 hours shorter than we have done before. He says that he wants a shorter package because he will be building a house at the end of our package and will not have time for English. I know what’s going to happen after those 10 hours are over. I don’t think I will see him again. He says that his house is probably going to take about a year and if you can’t find the time to spend an hour a week on English while you’re building a house then I doubt you’re going to be coming back to me after the house is finished. It makes me sad because we’ve been working together since 2019. While I have to remain optimistic that something will come up, having a positive outlook can be quite a challenge when you work in something as inconsistent as teaching language. And that is with all languages, not just English.

Later today I have my last class with Martijn. We have been working together since late last year. What originally started as 20 half-hour classes twice a week became a one-hour class once a week for 10 hours and then he renewed for a further 10 hours. Usually when when a teacher asks a student if they will renew, the answer is yes but alas not this time. It seems that Martijn’s company will only budget for 20 hours of English lessons. I am sad to see him go and hope that I will see him again sometime soon. I am too much of a cynic to think that once a person has finished English lessons they will come back. Or that if they do, they find that they don’t have the energy to continue as was the case with my student Felix back in 2020. He came back to my schedule for all of 3 lessons before saying he had no energy to continue. I still have ShinWei for another six lessons and of course there are the sisters from Palestine. But I’m noticing a distinct lack of lessons from TEC. Every time I compete for a lesson I am not chosen. Even with the girls from Palestine, I was the third choice and I only got the gig because I was recommended by a friend. Still my eternal optimism comes to the fore and I have to keep hoping that I will get more lessons.

In two weeks I am giving a workshop on writing. Seven people have signed up so far and they are coming to my house on the 9th of April to hear me talk about the joy of writing. The caveat to this workshop is that I am not technically a published writer so so I almost feel like a fraud. One of my writer friends has said that I should not feel this way and that I should give this class without remorse. After all, when one puts pen to paper one is a writer. I spent most of Saturday figuring out how to teach this workshop. I also did a little bit of research for workshop that I would love to give for TEC on diplomacy and soft skills. What are soft skills, you ask? They are the character traits that people have they’ll help them interact with other people. These include the ability to communicate with others, mentor coworkers, lead a team, negotiate a contract, follow instructions, and get a job done on time. It can be daunting to have the skills in your native language. Imagine the difficulties faced by second language learners. I had pitched the idea to TEC that we do a one-day seminar. I had been working on it before I was struck down by Covid but of course, was not able to do much of anything last week. On Saturday, I sat down and did a couple of hours of work on the soft skills workshop. With me not going to Amstelveen for the next couple of weeks, I now have extra time to be able to work on it. I’m still a little bit worried about it. It’s one thing to plan 14 hours of lessons in a week and quite another to plan a 6-hour workshop. However, will I fill that time? It’s a challenge I’m both looking forward to and dreading.

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

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