Category Archives: Random Thought

Random Thought – Mortgage Adviser & EFL Teacher, same thing really.

As some people know, before I became a teacher I was a mortgage adviser for a very large bank. I hated the job, it was everything I didn’t want to be, but I was good at it, in fact, I was damn good at it. So, I did the job for a couple of years, banked a healthy return and got the hell out. So why was I so good at it? Well, in case you don’t know, being a mortgage adviser is all about sales, next time you get a mortgage try and get through the application without buying some insurance, seriously, good luck with that. But ye, I had an approach to my job that worked, and it was simple, make the customer feel at ease and relate to them. Depending on who my customer was, I adapted who I was in order to help me achieve this. High flying businessman buying a $5,000,000 dollar home? Guess what, I am hoping to become branch manager in the next year and I’m studying to move into business financial advising. Young guy buying your first house and go to the footy every weekend? Great, I have a season ticket at Leeds United and haven’t missed a match in four years. At the time, both of those things were, more or less, true.

Now I’m a teacher I find myself doing a very similar thing to help me connect and develop rapport with my students. This morning I had a group of 17 year old boys who can think of nothing but footy, League of Legends and, it seems, bikinis. So, to them I show myself as an active, football loving, LoL playing guy that is happy to talk about the fairer sex with them. This class gets kind of roudy, so I find myself being a bit stricter with the rules and speaking with a bit of a louder voice. After lunch time I had less confident, slightly lower level girls who are into all things cuddly, enjoy giggling when they see a picture of a handsome man and always let me know which celebrity’s birthday is coming up. To them, I’m a cute teacher, that speaks softly, has just bought his fiancee a kitten and is going to have a very romantic wedding that they are all invited too. I also seem to find myself doing kind of cute actions and that kind of stuff. Also, I find I don’t do so much error correction, just getting them to speak English in front of each other is a fine achievement. If you asked the two classes to describe their English teacher, I think they would give quite different descriptions. But again, everything my students know about me is true.

In neither situation did I lie about myself, but I did adapt myself to what I thought the other party needed in order to get us where we needed to go. So, as I thought to myself in my class after lunch, in many ways, being a mortgage adviser isn’t always that different to being a teacher really.

Disclaimer: I’m actually quite proud of this, but I never sold insurance to someone who didn’t need it. That might be a thought to follow up on tomorrow actually.

Random Thought #94@( – Mixing Up Classes

So here it is, the moment of genius I had while in bed last night. Conversation classes (actually at the time last night I thought all classes, but that now seems a tad ridiculous, that’s why this project will be fun!) should be mixed classes wherever possible. But I don’t just mean mixed ability, I mean mixed everything. Mixed ages, mixed levels, mixed sexes, mixed ethnicity, mixed goals, mixed hair styles, mixed occupations and anything else that can be mixed. I think this because the goal of a general conversation classroom is usually to learn how to converse, I think it is anyway. Not to learn how to converse with someone from the same place, who can speak at a similar level and has had similar life experiences. That person, you will probably just speak in your L1 with! yet this industry seems obsessed with categorising and streaming our students. What do you reckon, is it time to mix it up?

For more random thoughts they will all be posted here.

Edit: People complained my numbering system was too standard. I agree. I have a new numbering system, that isn’t random.

 

Comments

Lawrence
18/11/2013 02:16

This makes sense to me. As far as I can remember language teachers always used to make us pretend to do this when conversing anyway. Pretend to be talking to someone older, pretend to be talking to your boss, pretend to be talking to a parent, pretend to be talking to a waiter, pretend to be talking to a friend, etc etc. Why not just make them do it to as far an extent as is possible within a school? I think especially for younger children to talk to the older ones would work fantastically!

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Alex
24/11/2013 16:45

Ye you’re exactly right Loz, I still make my students do this, which is pretty ridiculous. I think even if it wasn’t every lessons, but just one period a month or something to create so genuine conversation as opposed to faking it.

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Billy
18/11/2013 03:38

idealistically, definitely good for authenticity, and preparing students for real life english use – I know how you love your ELF – but in terms of feasibility where are you going to get students with different L1s? You’re in one of the world’s most homogeneous countries.Mixed levels leads to the usual problems, and mixed genders… I can’t imagine that encouraging communicativeness in high school boys haha.

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Alex
19/11/2013 17:44

Hi Billy, thanks for the comment. I agree, feasibility would definitely be an issue. But I do keep nagging my school to give me mixed genders, I figure they are asking me to teach them how to communicate with all people, not just half the people in the world and I genuinely think communicating with the opposite ex is a very different ball game to communicating with the same sex. It could be very interesting though!!! lol

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19/11/2013 23:10

Love it. While teaching in Korea doesn’t always allow us to mix things up as much as perhaps we would like, in our role as facilitator, we should aim to do so as much as possible. I would say 80% of the learners I teach are university students, and the other 20% workers or housewives. I always try to pair up the workers with the students, and almost always the conversations that follow are much more interesting than the conversation between two freshman English lit students. Putting two similar people together, they can already guess how the other person feels or thinks about a topic, and then there is no real need for communication.

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Alex
24/11/2013 16:41

Hi David! I really wish I had that opportunity, I get really frustrated by the fact I am absolutely locked in to having single sex, same age classes (even though I teach in a mixed school). I’ve tried explaining to the school that such a policy makes my job near in impssible but they won’t have it. As you say, the problem is, and I really believe it affects communication, they already know everything about each other. Everything we do in English class is just a repeat of what they already know, but in a different language.

Thanks for your read and comment, it’s very appreciated.