I teach a lot of English.
I teach a lot of people English, a lot of English classes and a lot of different types of English.
But I don't teach English.
I teach people.
I teach a just-turned-two year old class where I just shadow them and provide a running commentary on what they're doing- mostly playing with cars. After two months they can now understand and produce 'go, stop, fast, slow, push, again and oh no'. Or rather OH NO!!
I teach a JHS class where the kids bring their textbooks and we just drill in the grammar. They each work individually on their elected area and I facilitate, drink coffee, encourage, drink more coffee, explain, drink more coffee and try and stay awake.
I teach a whole bunch of elementary school classes where I have a great time playing games and encouraging communication and explaining plurals and trying to keep my Yuyas and Yutas and Ryusukes and Ryosukes and Nanases and Nanasas straight.
I teach two senior English conversation classes. One where I bring a print each week and we do warmup, print, self-expression time. The class has great momentum, the women are eager and attentive and it really has great energy. As a plus they actually seem to be retaining some English.
My other senior English class I have niggling doubts about. We only meet twice a month as they are the busiest group of people I have ever met. Each is involved in multiple volunteer activities, studies at least one other activity and two of them teach activities as well. In a one hour class we almost never get past 'how was your week?' as they have so much to talk about and all write down what everyone else said too which inevitably leads into an explanation of a grammar point (today's was 'I should have......') and then we each make a sentence using the grammar point for practise and that leads to....
So I was driving to class today thinking wow, I just get so mired down in the details with that class... They all seem quite interested and they remember a lot of what I previously taught but it is so random- we are learning higgledy piggledy bits of grammar all over the shop... Got to work on my teaching there.
And then at the end of class as we were drinking tea and eating pickles- if I get high blood pressure I'm claiming workers comp from all the salt I eat on the job- when one of the women said she wanted to thank me for teaching her something really important. Pretty sure she didn't mean 'I should have taken an umbrella' I asked what she meant.
"You always teach us what we're interested in. You take what we want to say and make it into a lesson. We're motivated because you're helping us express ourselves. I copied that idea and it has really helped me teach Y-chan. She's the Brazilian girl I help at the local elementary school. I'm the third teaching aide she's had and the other two wrote reports that she probably has learning disabilities and she was no good at school. I watched her and I thought that she just wasn't interested in the textbook. I asked her about the character on her t0-shirt and she tried to explain but she didn't know all the words. Slowly with lots of gestures and drawing pictures she told me about her favourite Brazilian cartoon. The next class I brought in some Japanese cartoon character pictures and we talked about that. Slowly she started trying to communicate more and more. I started introducing the grammar from her textbook into our conversations and then when I opened the textbook I showed her that she already knew how to do it. She really changed. Her class teacher and her principal both asked me what I did- she used to sit in class and just draw pictures. Now she is trying to talk to her classmates and really being a member if the class. Thank you for teaching me how to teach like that.
Wow. Now there's no way I am taking responsibility for Mrs N's getting through to Y-chan but I was really happy that the thing I am most passionate about in my teaching- teaching the student not the subject- was appreciated. I'm happy that I was able to help her learn and help her teach. And I am happy that somehow that made a difference to an 8 year old kid living in a foreign country and dealing with all the issues that brings with it.
And that was something nice for all of us today.