Who said nobody died? Keeping it all in perspective in the classroom

Awkward.  Doing a session on ‘feelings’ including the simplistic questioning of students with intentionally benign queries such as ‘why are you sad today?’.  Why are you happy today?’  I do know my students are predisposed to be disarmingly truthful, but the big perspective giver today was to what extent.  I found out all sorts of things about my students today, and that was good. What was less good, was finding I did not have sufficient shared language to offer an appropriate response.   Case in point.  Today one of my students was sad today because ‘three of my patients died‘.  What the?  I know he’s a nurse, but even so, three in one day?  That is truly a bad day.  He looked understandably distraught.  He is still in training, so has not yet developed the necessary ability to limit his empathy for his patients in order to practise in a caring profession without impacting on his own health and wellbeing. He is also sad because ‘I cannot always help my patients‘.  I came out with the usual limp platitudes, and how inadequate they felt.  I was thinking people might share things more along the lines of ‘I am sad today because I lost my pen.’  I should have known better.  If I have a ‘bad day’ teaching, it isn’t really in the same league.  It’s more they didn’t laugh sufficiently at my elaborate mime, or I got a wall of blank faces after trying to explain an activity.  That’s not a bad day really is it?  Not in the grand scheme of things?

Another student had lost  ten-dollar bill at school, another was sad because his boss swore at him at work.  Life is shite sometimes it really is, none of my students deserve these arrows of misfortune to be fired their way.  I deviated from my lesson plan.  I gave them only positive/ amusing feelings to think about.  How many things can you think of that make you happy?  Why are you embarrassed?  They delivered, they did good. As a bonus, we also covered vocabulary relating to farts and burps (how did I overlook the opportunity to explain about ‘to trump’?  A mystery). We also discovered one of our number can wiggle his ears, and is therefore thought to be an alien. Cue loads more indispensable vocabulary relating to science fiction.  The mood improved.

Here is a student being embarrassed too, great representation I like to think!

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On a happier note, how wonderful to find that one of my students loves her job at a market research company. She has three new exciting projects relating to soap, toothpaste and safety in Cambodia.  Another is excited because she has a new team of 10 people to train.  They are an accomplished and high-flying bunch.  Good though that they can still be embarrassed by forgetting to flush the loo and going into the wrong gender toilets and forgetting to lock the cubicle door, (lavatory humour is apparently universal, good to know).  Students all got stuck in pretty well today, even if it wasn’t the most imaginative of sessions.

In the second class a student appeared who I’ve not seen for about three weeks.  He is worried about his English apparently, I think it’s possible there is a correlation between his lack of attendance and his linguistic skills.  His English is pretty good, but I never see him.  A number of students say they are happy when they come to class.  I love them all.  One is worried about what will happen when I leave.  Me too to be fair.  My immediate worry though is what to do with the topic for the rest of the week. They have grasped it really well, I know repetition and reinforcement is generally good, but there must be some limit to what they can stand.  This particular chapter seems especially thin on interesting activities. Oh well, I have a plan.  Even if it dies, it will be a metaphorical death not a literal one.  Let’s keep things in perspective.

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