Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mini breakthrough with my Korean student

On Tuesday last week, during my 30minute break between classes, my student (JY) from Korea said to me, "Sheetal...this will be my last week at school."

Suddenly, I forgot about where I had to be and what I had to do. JY had just been at school for 2 weeks and can easily be described as a model student. He's in class early, does his homework, reads, goes to the Listening Center for extra practice etc... so why did he suddenly want to pack up and leave?

I asked to meet him after school and talk it through. I am so honoured that he opened up to me as much as he did. He felt like he wasn't making a lot of progress. I responded to this by telling him that learning a new language is not magic. He can't expect to suddenly speak fluently within a few days. It takes work...for some, very hard work, determination and a strong drive.

As we spoke more, I found out that he is staying with a Korean family very far from the school. This means, that he has no opportunity to speak English when he leaves school at the end of the day. So when he comes to class in the morning, he hears about what other students got up to the previous night and what they plan to do later that day.  JY was feeling isolated. He told me that he wants to have contact with other students from foreign countries, but he feels shy and not confident enough.

My heart sank for this young guy who traveled halfway across the world, determined to study English, but was feeling completely isolated and lonely. Because he confided in me, I felt obligated to help him.

I told him that I see something very special in him, which he may not recognize himself. I suggested he try moving closer to the school and would be able to socialize a lot more with other students.

The next day, I spoke to the school's director who asked to meet with the student and me later that day to talk this matter through. We gave the options of various accommodation near the school.

On Wednesday, a few of my Brazilian students decided to go to the Cubana, restaurant/bar with me and I asked JY to join us. That night, I could see that given the opportunity...JY would really enjoy his time in Cape Town.

The following day at school, I paired him up with Gabi from Brazil for a speaking activity. The two got along so well and had fun working together.  A week later, I am just delighted to say that JY has decided to extend his stay in South Africa! I told him that one day when he's a father and grandfather, I would hate for him to think back to this time and regret not listening to me...his teacher to not give up.

From a business perspective, it's never good when students decide to quit in the middle of their course to go back home. Teachers know that as long as there are students, there's work.  Having said that, as teachers we simply cannot ignore the fact that our students - our customers - are human beings with real emotions and feelings.

Time is precious to teachers, but spending anything from 10-30 minutes talking to a student, stroking their ego and making them believe that YOU believe in THEM can make a profound difference!

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