Sometimes I get home from a lesson and think unhappy thoughts. The students may have just been bored for an hour.
Those are usually the lessons where I find myself apologizing profusely for how hard German is, or how yes, I know French makes no sense, it frustrates me too. Was the way I explained the concept too complicated, why haven't I found the magical teaching style that makes everything fun? That's what I ask myself in a bad minute, one where students have to understand the tough bits or feel like they are not making progress.
On Crows and Budgies
My friend Ruth, who you might remember from her first forays into language learning in this post on getting started, has a lovely blog on creativity and making things. She sees the world in whimsical ways, and found this simple and reassuring way of expressing the way we all feel sometimes. Ruth calls it the Crow of Negativity (and has created a budgie to balance her out!).
So guys, language learners, fellow frustratees, let's sit down and work through this one. The crow of negativity is going to visit us all from time to time, so today I'm inviting you to join me in making the most out of her visits by acknowledging some things as tough and pulling together to find the right motivation to get through this. I hope you'll recognise yourselves in these.
My crow says "You're straying from the plan!"
My budgie answers "We are learning for life, not for exams!"
When designing a class, teachers will look at these things called learning outcomes and write themselves goals for what the student is able to do after a lesson. What does the student do though? Do they approach the lesson in the hope of picking up a new grammar point? A set number of words? I'll go out of my way and say NO. In a lesson, I would want to be given the opportunity to practice and play with new concepts. I'd want to show off a new word I learnt, or ask about everything and anything and get a full answer.
So as a teacher, this means the lesson plan has its place and I actually want you students to derail it. If we don't stick to a timetable I dreamed up in my office while drinking coffee, who the heck cares. I want the learners to feel be engaged, let me know what is unclear, and to have faith in me to explain and practice things until they work. The curriculum can wait for a bit.
My crow says "They don't want to study a hard language"
My budgie answers "It's going to RULE when they use it"
I really don't know why I keep saying sorry for the Dativ or the separable verbs, because I should remember that they are the great bits. Grammar things are the parts of language that bring it together and make it tick. Furthermore, you learning guys are smart. Just like I don't go into those gym classes expecting to come out beautiful, relaxed and fragrant, I have to trust that my students don't come to the German lessons expecting fluency without brain ache. We all know what we are in for when taking on a new learning adventure.
As tough as it is to have to teach a tricky rule to someone, the excitement and joy of seeing them use it is AWESOME. I think it's so exciting when a student applies something new or proudly remembers a word - and I can tell that they do too! Yes, I'm here to celebrate the successes with you. That's exactly what we're going to do. Just need to remember that when we stare down a crow that says "indirect object".
My crow says "All my friends hang out with your students"
My budgie says "We are legion"
I suspect you recognise yourself in one or two of the crow meetings, and that you have crows of your own, coming by to tell you things about your speaking abilities or how bad your memory is. Please don't ignore them completely, because they're quite big and can be persistent and I would hate for them to wear you down. Instead, try and meet the crow thought with an open mind and examine what your ideas might mean.
The crow has friends, but the budgie has a flock! I will always work hard on making it possible for you to meet those thoughts and turn them into positives. A "bad memory" can be tricked with mnemonics, songs and strong experiences, and high expectations can be taken down a notch without having the project fall onto your head.
Show your crows
It's easier for the budgies to find you if you speak up. Let your teacher know which bits make no sense, or share your crow's words when it's telling you that you are getting bored.
Thanks Ruth! If you loved those birds and the chicken, why not visit Ruth's website and Etsy store, where you can buy her art prints of philosophy birds.