The student cries

So, it was bound to happen. As teachers, we all have good and bad weeks. This week was definitely in the latter category. And yet it also wasn’t. My lesson this week was an introduction to public speaking and it isn’t that good. It wasn’t terrible and the main task (one I did in my first year at RDFZ, which worked quite well there) worked okay, and some students really got into it (it is a variation on the balloon debate), but in my Tuesday afternoon class, I had a student start crying.

The balloon debate, in case anyone is unaware, is where you have a hot air balloon, everyone has a different character and they need to throw one person out to save on weight. You argue, based on your character, why you should stay. I reversed that. My topic was that the earth will be destroyed by an asteroid and there is a spaceship leaving earth and one seat remains. Assigning groups different jobs (e.g. doctor, soldier, chef etc), they had to write a speech and convince the rest of the class why they should be the ones to get the seat. The class then takes a vote.

One student, whose English is not fantastic but by far not the worst in the class (she is average, I’d say) got up from her group to give a speech. She delivered it and sat down, but then started crying – I think because of the nerves and relief it was all over. Her boyfriend is also in the class (and was sat next to her). I was sat at the back of the class, listening to the speeches.  I guessed, however, by her body movements, that she was crying. It wasn’t loud or dramatic and it was pretty much at the end of class anyway, so, after dismissing everyone else, I asked her to stay behind. I explained it was good what she did – that she was nervous but still stood up and gave the speech, that it was not in her native language but that she could still do it and she should be happy with that. I also told her that she should make the speech her own, and do it how she wanted to do it, not how anyone else did. She was okay then, and she departed with her boyfriend to her next class, which happened to be a Chinese public speaking class.

Later, when I was eating my tea, she messaged me to say that in her class she had to do a presentation and that the teacher had said her group were the best and now she was really happy, which was great. She also said that often, things are more black and white to Chinese teachers (you’re good at public speaking or you aren’t), and she didn’t always get a lot of encouragement from them. She said that at CUFE (the university where I work), I was her favourite teacher, which is nice, though everyone enjoys foreign teacher class. The same lesson on Friday went, it has to be said, reasonably well. The students all got into the task and really thought about the activity and what to say.

On the other side of things, I had English Corner on Tuesday evening as well. This was the first of the semester and I’d set myself the (perhaps difficult) topic of the Tudors. On the evening in question, the class wasn’t terrible but was by no means fantastic either. It was mostly me talking, going through stuff, stuff which maybe they didn’t know much about or were not that interested in. I had a couple of practical things which they did, but mostly I felt it was very much below par. I think for my next one I’ll do a lesson I did last semester with my normal classes, and maybe just change a little. That usually works well with whatever audience. I think the students’ struggled a little too, though some said they did enjoy it. It’s over now for a while anyway, and I can forget about it and move on. Next topic in the textbook is emotions I think, so I will probably do some improvisation with my students which usually goes down well, and is relatively simple for me to put together in a lesson format. I am glad this week is over and here’s hoping next week is a more positive, and less stressful one!

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