Warnings in July 2007

It’s been a while. In July, I’ll be able to say that I’ve been teaching for over ten years. Things have changed. I’ve changed. I’ve taught 3-year-olds, 63-year-olds and everything in between. When I started, I had a tough time with many of my classes. Students liked me believe it or not, but I always felt as if they weren’t getting the quality they deserved. I had a couple who knew the dictionary from cover to cover. All I had to do was teach them how to have decent conversations. I pushed myself, but it was never fast enough. Then I read that it takes someone at least ten years of hard training to become a master at something. Bobby Fischer was a little faster than most having only trained for eight years before becoming a chess master at age 14, but most agree on the ten year mark. Ten years is a long time, but they went by faster than I thought. Now, I’m no master at anything by any means. I might be quick with the lip and good with the local lingo, but my old brain isn’t the sharpest spoon in the drawer. That notwithstanding, this last year of teaching has been an exceptional one for me. I’ve been able to help students learn like I’ve never done before. Things just kicked in. When I first started, I would literally walk around town all day long and not be able to hear a single person speaking in English. Today it’s a different story. I warn you that when my current students grow up, it’s going to be a totally different story.

A good friend of mine once expressed interest in brushing up on her skills. I didn’t have any adult classes at the time, but I had a dynamite class of high school kids who could hold their own with the best of them. I invited her. Why not? The kids were a bit intimidating at first, but the class relationship got tight in no time. The kids had their strengths, but she also had hers. They mutually respected each other. When I teach, I try with all my skills to get learners out of the robotic stage. It’s hard to do. I strive to get the rhythm and rhyme going. I’ve read Green Eggs and Ham more times than most kids have eaten rice. The book reads like a song. A couple of weeks into the class and I was firing questions at everyone. No thinking was involved. It was like doing sprints at the beginning of practice. I got to my friend, and she looked at me, pointed her finger at her nose, and said “Me?” The young guy next to her simply turned and said, “No. Your brother. Yes, you!” The class, the girl and I all erupted in laughter. That’s what I’m talking about. This guy had flare. It was one of those days when you wonder how your boss pays you to have fun.

By Tim Hoerle