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I don't really know how to thank everyone without it sounding trite but last week I really was close to wanting to pack it all in. I've never felt so discouraged before and although I still can't see the whole way through the door, I can now see some light from the other side. The advice and support I received was more than I ever expected and has highlighted to me once again the amazing worth of this online world.
The first person to comment was Adam. Randomly at the same moment he was posting his comment I stumbled across his excellent blog. I can't recommend his post Why is my class doing so well highly enough to anyone feeling remotely like I was last week. Usually when I'm in his position, loving my job and teaching a group of learners who are highly motivated I take a lot of the credit. Instead, this post takes a long, and indepth look at motivation and the reasons why a class goes well or not so well.
His down to earth advice and common sense really helped me take a deep breath and look at my class with a bit more perspective. I really liked how he said, in such situations, breaking up a course of study into small achievable goals can bring some students back from the brink.
This is perhaps where I need to focus - and since I was pretty near the brink I'll start with some manageable goals for myself.
Really break stuff down, help the learners see their achievements at the end of each lesson and how they are building on those achievements albeit slowly. This will require me to be much more structured. A lovely teacher who I work with has offered to sit down with me and create a clear scheme of work for the remainder of this year.
Help them structure their learning outside of class. Naomi made two great suggestions for which I'm infinitely grateful. You can find them here. The first, creating labels that they could put on household objects at home, could be linked into classes. We would create the signs together then after class they'd place them round their homes. The second idea is also good and something I will encourage them to do this coming week.
Maintain perspective - whilst I know that I can do a much better job, beating myself up isn't going to get them or me very far. Thank you to Ceci & Mike for your calm and encouraging advice in that respect as well as a good reminder of the other factors involved.
Find and incorporate more varied and creative ways of re-covering vocab. I spent a productive afternoon finding some new activities for this. The best one was the iteslj website and a list from a teacher called Mark Koprowski. Some of the ideas were very familiar but others were new to me.
Find out more about family learning. This was David's suggestion and I think it's worth looking into. The learners were feeling disheartened because their children are learning so much faster than them. So the idea of linking that learning up and using it to help the parents makes a lot of sense and I think it's worth a try. Again see here for details.
Try to set up some work experience for them. The various suggestions made by Naomi, Mike, and David on the theme of outside learning made me think how great it would be for them to do some volunteering. They can't get paid work but volunteer work would give them experience and immerse them more fully into the language and culture.
So there you have it, perhaps not a wide open door but definitely a glimmer of light. Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to comment, read, tweet or just simply care. Your advice, support and presence have made a difference. Although the situation is the same I feel I have some tools and a bit of mountain perspective to take back with me into the valley.
Thank you :-)