Les gens qui ne rient jamais ne sont pas des gens sérieux

Be who you are and say what you mean, those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind

Monday, November 21, 2005

English lessons in various shapes and sizes

Marek restarts English lessons at work today. I'm used to our bizarre arrangement of communicating in French with the odd smattering of Polish thrown in for good measure, but this morning instructions were 'English, all day' so that's that. Looking back, I should have amused myself by using random breakfast phrases like 'hot beverage' or 'eggs sunny side up'. Oh well, I can save it for his next lesson on Wednesday.

It's going to be fun to be the corrector instead of the corrected for a couple of days a week. Having said that though, I have a bit of a problem with filling the role of 'corrector' or 'teacher'.

As a native English speaker it is inevitable that I meet people all the time who want to practise their English. This 'you are English therefore you must want to teach English' attitude has seeped into nearly all areas of my life.

We go out with Polish friends and have long discussions about past participles; my 'educational programme for young refugees' project has turned into 'English lessons for Russian-speaking refugees'; I get calls and emails all the time (the latest this very morning) from people wanting to get me to teach their friend, child, partner... and I suppose it's flattering.

They all assume I am qualified for the job and interested in sharing my native-English-speaker skills. The possibility that I might not want to teach English doesn't seem to cross their minds. Or the fact that speaking English doesn't necessarily give you the skills to teach it. I don't particularly like teaching. I don't mind it, but firstly I am not qualified, and secondly, there are so many things that interest me more than verb conjugation.

When I say I'm not qualified, I mean I haven't passed any teaching exams. I've taught English before - a French girl in Germany, a French-speaking Cameroonian refugee in Belgium - but I've never had the training. I've taken language lessons myself and have seen various methods, as well as inheriting knowledge from my teacher-mother, but it's something that's been thrust upon me rather than being a result of my choosing.

I enjoy the English language; I like reading and writing and I have been known to get relatively excited about a point of grammar, but that doesn't necessarily make me a good teacher. I get impatient with people who are slow to learn, I get bored with the repetition and resentful of those who ask me to go slower.

I guess I could choose one of two ways. Suck it up; read the teaching books; take on private students; make some damned money for a change and live in the world some people around me seem intent on creating for me.


Take an active decision for once in my life and declare to the world that I am English but not an English teacher; improve my Polish so that we can discuss other topics of conversation in Polish and save my limited teaching skills and patience for the refugees. Oh, and Marek who surely deserves something in return for his heroic efforts with me and that impossibly hard language they like to call Polish.

Yeah, that's what I'll do.

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Anonymous Kinuk said...

As you know, I am amazed that anybody actually learns Polish as a foreign (or second or third) language. It's so damn hard.

I know how you feel about teaching English; I've had similar experiences. Most people also think that if you're a teacher, you can teach them anything, including a language. It's hard to explain that it doesn't work that way.

Any time I've actually tried tutoring English to children or adults, I've found it a very hard way to earn money because it was just so boring. I love my everyday teaching, but teaching English is definitely not for me.

6:10 pm  
Blogger jeronimo said...

Well, ladies,
Unlike you two, I actually do teach English for a living here in Warsaw, am certified to teach (CELTA), and am always interested in taking on more students that are interested in learning from a native speaker (my classes aren't boring, at least I do my best to prevent the b-thing from happening!) ;-)
So any interested parties, send'em my way!


11:45 am  
Blogger Becca said...

We'll both send them your way Jeronimo!

9:19 pm  

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