Apr 17, 2012

Behind Bars - English lessons in prison

Nothing major to report – all proceeding well. Good attendance, good feelings and good progress – as good as you could hope for.
The group is a bit mixed. Although we have lost our ‘star’ (Julian the ‘English-through-Cartoon Network’ learner) there are still two students who can get by with the English they learnt at school (and in one case university) – they are still ‘elementary’ and we’re encountering plenty of gaps, but they have the advantage of knowing that they know some English – it has a sense of ‘familiarity’ to them. At the other end of the scale there are two guys who started totally from scratch and who also happened to miss most lessons over the first few weeks. They are straggling but are not detached – they are certainly very keen.
Oddly enough, one lives in the German-speaking Tirol region of Italy, although he wasn’t brought up there. At the beginning of the course he said he couldn’t speak and German, but the English lessons seem to be unearthing lots of buried bits of it. Pretty often he’ll say things in German, to his own surprise and embarrassment and everyone else’s amusement.
When you have one hour and a group of 10 or 12 to teach you have to make judgements about how to fairly do use your time and divide your attentions. The group does have a substantial ‘middle’ – seven or eight guys who are all pretty much similar in terms of initial level – all virtual beginners – and in terms of general aptitude. This ‘core’ guides the pace of the course.
Of course, you’d love to be able to do ‘everything’, to do what’s best for ‘everyone’ – but if you chase that too far you can end up doing not enough for anyone. Ultimately you have to make judicious compromises and do, on the whole, the best you can for most.

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