The ABC of ELT

When Students Enter with Baggage

As the students shuffled into class today I could tell something was up. Ivan (I’m using Russian names to hide the identity of the students), normally full of life and energy and my ally against boredom in the classroom, didn’t look the same. Gone was the energy and desire to answer every question and in its place was something disturbingly teenager like and agnostic.

I quickly put on my detective hat and set to work trying to identify the possible cause. No visible injuries, the wether was great, newish clothes, he had his books as usually, nothing immediately out of the ordinary. At least not to a mere mortal like me with non-Benedict Cumberbatch levels of deductive skills.

The lesson carried on and towards the end Ivan did pick up but the energy levels were much lower, the students voices more timid and the hole atmosphere felt a bit off.

I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences at some point in your career. Sometimes something happens outside the class and completely changes the dynamic.

Our Student’s Baggage

One of the facts we have to accept and deal with as teachers is there is a big wide world out there and we can’t control all the factors. I have no idea what was up with Ivan today and whatever it was, there was precious little I could do to affect it. I see these kids for at most a couple of hours a week and their home and state school life has a much greater impact on them than I do.

Sometimes a kid has got in a fight at school, sometimes they are stressed by exams, sometimes they’ve had a fight with their parents and unfortunately sometimes they our students get bullied or abused by people around them, even those closest to them.

They bring all this into the classroom, both the bad and the good (yeah outside life and circumstance can be really good as well! It’s well worth remembering that when we have these more depressing encounters). We have to be ready to pick up on these details and adapt.

The Good News

Although we may think we only have a few hours a week with each student and we are at the mercy of what has been happening in the rest of their lives we still have that time with them. We have the opportunity to give them a break from everything else that is going on, to give them a taste of something different, to create a safe envionrment and if necessary pass on to the relevant groups what we have noticed.

If we only have a few hours with our students, then let’s make those hours count.
[Photo Credit: Robert S. Donovan via Compfight cc]

About Chris Wilson

I'm an English Language teacher based in Krakow, Poland. I enjoy writing, using technology and playing the Ukulele.

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