Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ready to learn?

I'm at a possible impasse with my Lord of the Flies twelfth grade class.

Side note: When I have three different twelfth grade classes, it can be a little complicated to differentiate them in talking to people who don't work with me. Thus far they are called "my guns twelfth grade class," "my Macbeth/religion twelfth grade class," and "my Lord of the Flies twelfth grade class" but that does get a little unwieldy. Trouble is, calling them "12a" or some other logical denotation doesn't mean anything to anyone but me and I would always have to follow it up with "the ones who are reading Lord of the Flies" or similar, which kind of defeats the purpose. So unwieldy it is! At least for now.

This isn't a real impasse. They're a good group of kids with the normal spread of good, bad, and middling students. When I ask questions someone always answers me, but on Wednesday it was the same three very good students who kept raising their hands and no one else. Occasionally I would get a half-hearted shrug of a raised hand from five or six other students, and the rest of the class mostly stayed silent. We got through the lesson, it was generally good, etc. After I left the teacher asked them why so many were quiet and relayed to me that a number of them didn't understand me because I was talking too fast.


Anyone who knows me is well aware that I talk too fast, always. Native English speakers often don't understand me. My family has a code word they say every time I've blurted out a sentence too quickly for them to follow. (Seriously. Plus they always laugh. Every time.) And while I do my best to slow down for my students, my idea of speaking slowly is anyone else's idea of a little faster than normal. You can imagine how frustrating this is for non-native speakers.

The impasse is that my students won't tell me they don't understand. For some, they're embarrassed to admit they can't follow my English. For some, they don't care. For most, I think, school is something you passively complete rather than actively engage in, and it's not worth the bother.

I chatted with my family this weekend and we brainstormed ideas. So far my strategies are: beginning the class in German so they can hear that I struggle with a second language as well, asking them to come up with a code word that means I've talked too quickly, and reminding them that even native English speakers have trouble understanding me sometime. I'm open to any further suggestions.

We'll see how this goes.

1 comment:

  1. Debate really messed up my sense of slow/fast speaking ... Is it appropriate to call on students who haven't raised their hands? Or to designate a group of students to lead a discussion on a particular section of the book each day?

    Keep writing! I love to read your posts. :)