This morning’s lesson

Monica’s story.  Stolen from an adult ESL lesson on prejudice.  Monica goes to Macy’s to buy perfume.  The woman at the perfume counter pretends not to understand her, she leaves with her feelings hurt.  We learned “hurt feelings” last time and I am trying to have a connection between lessons now.  Although maybe it only makes me feel better.

I edit the story so that it’s shorter and as simple as possible, but in doing so I may obscure the fact that Monica is in the right while the mean perfume lady needs a kick in the pants because not everyone has to sound like a native speaker to be comprehensible.  I worry that some of the swollen eyed sniffling is as much a result of a message I had not intended, that people will be mean to you if you have trouble at English, without the condemnation of that behavior, as it is a result of the difficulty of the task.  I have trouble explaining the word brave, as in you are brave to try speaking English even if you are afraid.

I had not done reading with them before, but it is what they do in their textbook, so it’s an experiment.  My poor middle school albino rats, always being experimented upon by the waeguk teacher who keeps hoping to stumble upon the best way to help them.  Hopefully their morning self esteem is rebuilt when we do the past tense verb cloze exercise with the same text, a task which they eat in minutes.

Still trying to get them to write.  By the last minute they begin, fitfully, so I’m like do you really not understand or are you dragging your feet?  I will have them finish next time because I think it is important for them to feel like they have accomplished/can accomplish what I asked of them.

Don’t worry kids.  I don’t expect the great Korean novel, and when I care about grammar, I’ll teach it to you.  But I have the most in depth conversations with a Korean (his subject) teacher who doesn’t know English by any commonly accepted definition of “knowledge” but he is brave enough to throw out whatever he can and we communicate a surprising amount this way.

Walked home the other day with one of my students who, previously, had said through her friend that she wants to talk to me but can’t because “her English: no.”  I have a lot of these “Teacher, my English: no” girls.   She tagged along to the super initially because she wanted me to buy her an apple.  Created quite a scene, at one point attracting a taxi driver who had parked his car in front of the travel agency, me surrounded by middle school girls screaming about fruit.

Our walks home coincided for a time.  When she got home she would watch American action movies, her favorite movie is Titanic, and her uncle is an apple farmer, which is good money.  I’m not saying that this was communicated entirely in English, but I would ask a question and she would answer as best she could.  And the next day during my flop lesson she was one of the few who answered when I asked a question.  Which is why I’m skeptical that participation corresponds directly to what they understanding.  I think it has a lot more to do with their willingness to risk saying something that might not be what I want.


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