Finding the Level

When you reach the bottom, you can start moving up, and some classes, and some individual students, are like that.
I remember a group of girls in Bangkok. The director of the school, when she was describing the class to me, said “They’re a bunch of secretaries, they speak English very well.” I pulled out all of my favorite lessons, one by one, and gave it my very best effort, all to blank stares.
Finally, in a bit of frustrated sarcasm, I said something like “What begins with A,” and we were off to the races. I had found their level.
The kids I teach Thursday afternoon are not the best bunch of students in the world, to put it mildly. Some of them are flat out trying to sabotage the class, and others just stare at me blankly. I do all sorts of competitions with Flash Cards, but it gets a bit problematic because the same boy always wins, unless I stack the deck a bit, which can backfire because he realizes I’ve got my finger on the scales, that I’m a biased referee, and he’s not very gracious about it.
So, I was lecturing him today on how he could be a bit more gracious, and tried to teach everybody how to say “Congratulations.” Well, they probably all knew the word because it’s not that different in Czech and they’ve probably had some English lessons since pre-school (most of them are 8, one girl is 6), but some were refusing to say it or shake hands.
So, it turned into a broader lecture on polite words, and once I realized they all knew please and thank you I reached for the flash cards and said “If you say “Please give me the card, you win the card” and it was great. There are about 40 cards in the deck and I had 6 students chanting “Please give me the card” fast and in unison until they were all dealt out, which took maybe twenty seconds, at the most.
It’s a lesson that probably won’t work twice, but it sure worked once, and I’m happy for that.

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