Blogging is cathartic, it liberates you. Big phrases eh? Well, blogging for me is like writing in my own professional diary!! So, here is my melt down. Here is my story. It ain’t pretty.
Have you ever had a lesson that was your “worst lesson ever” ?OK, so keep that in mind. Now, think of how that lesson could have been worse. Do you have the image in your head? OK, so I am trying to create an atmosphere. Get your mug of coffee and read on.
I had one of those lessons the other day. One of those lessons where you feel like it can’t get worse than this!! The bad-est lesson eva! I think the word badest needs to exist cause you get bad and then the suffix -est accentuates it!
So, I, the super duper teacher, sat on my super duper chair, in front of my super duper pc to give a super duper online grammar lesson. I do consider myself kinda a grammar queen. I thrive when it comes to teaching grammar or do I?
My learner hates grammar. He is a B1 level adult learner and we have online lessons once a week. My learner has said this (I hate grammar) many, many times, but this learner ended up requesting a grammar lesson, and we had one. It was an overview of the tenses. Unfortunately, this grammar overview did not end in one teaching hour. We had to finish it off in the next lesson. My learner was fine with that. Second grammar lesson day came. Everything was going great until the learner got tired of the lesson and half way through decided he was not going to move to the production stage. The question I asked was, ” What did you eat yesterday?” No answer. In fact, my learner said, ” I want to think about this”
Me: ” OK”
Learner: ……. thinking….. thinking……
4 mins later
Learner: ” No, I cannot answer this question. I have not revised the tenses.”
Me: “Oh! That’s OK. Don’t worry about mistakes. I just want to see how you talk about things that happened yesterday, in the past.”
Learner: “No. I haven’t revised”.
Me: ” OK. Let’s talk about something else then. What will you do on the weekend?”
Learner: ” I cannot answer the question because I have not revised the grammar”.
Me…. starting to sweat in my super duper chair. I needed to do something otherwise we would have a staring contest….. online.What did I do? I completely changed the lesson. I dropped the questions cause I felt like a dentist pulling out my learners tooth and moved on to an article based lesson. We read an article and answered a few questions that were based on the article.
The lesson came to an end and we both went our separate ways. I went and made a big cup off coffee and grabbed a box of cookies. I was going to eat my sorrow and think.
Maybe I shouldn’t have turned a one hour lesson into a two hour grammar lesson with this particular learner. I should have treated the lesson like a Band-Aid and pulled it off quickly, but I am not a rush- rush teacher. I spend time on tasks and timing as in, sticking to the lesson plan/syllabus, is not as important as understanding.
When my learner said, ” I don’t want to talk because I haven’t revised” I should have gotten the message. My learner actually is not very talkative and gets frustrated when I correct mistakes anyhow. Big mistake Joanna!! Seriously, what were you thinking?!?!?!?!
Maybe I should have done more controlled tense practice activities like gap filling. Well, my excuse here is that I panicked. I heard no to a simple question ( simple in my mind) and then stopped thinking clearly.
I think changing the focus of the lesson, allowing the learner to revise, and moving on to something completely different was the best solution in this case. This was an online lesson, so I could not move around and ‘see’ my learner. Difficult teaching moments can be a bit more difficult when online. If I was in a class and saw that my learner was frustrated, I would stand up and say, ” OK! Let’s go outside and take a breather”.
I so dread the next lesson with this learner because he said he will revise and then he wants to do some more grammar. I think I will try to find a few alternatives though, just in case!!!
In retrospect, I think I still do not know how to properly react when a learner says, “I don’t want to do this”. Especially when this is something we have done as an ice breaker/warmer/chitchat, but never as a production stage of a grammar lesson.
I need to reflect…….
A few weeks later I wrote a blog post about what I ended up doing with this learner in the following lesson. If you want to read that post, press here
Till next time…..