Saturday, March 12, 2011

That was different

Yesterday I led an English class. I wanted to say that I “taught” the class, but couldn’t bring myself even here on the internet to make such an outlandish claim. To be truthful, it wasn’t even a class. I responded to a call from a company that runs a private English-language program, asking me to lead an English-language conversation group. Practically the only specific information I got from the program director related to the time and place.

I lost my enthusiasm for this adventure when I found out that the “Miss MSLU” pageant would begin at the exact moment that my conversation group should end a kilometer or two away from my university’s beauty contest. I managed to get tickets to the pageant, and I called the private language school to see if they really wanted me to come. Yes, unfortunately they did.

Bound by my promise, I headed off to the private school and asked Alla to try to save me a seat at the beauty pageant. I arrived a little early and sat in a hot and crowded corridor with the gathering students. I chatted up as many as were willing to talk, and figured I had a pretty good head start on a pleasant hour of conversation with a manageably-small group. Finally, six o’clock rolled around and the program director sent us into a newly-vacated classroom. Simultaneously, students poured out of another classroom into ours, and more people walked in from the street. I had a full house.

I asked the students how other visiting native speakers had run things to best advantage, but none of them had been in any such situation. So next I asked them if they’d like me to try to lead this large group in a two-way dialog or if they’d just like me to tell them stories. One student asked for stories and everybody else remained silent. I tried to locate any dissenting opinions, but the only other people to speak allowed as how stories would be fine, so that’s what they got.

I actually did have a good time, and I did succeed in getting some audience interaction. If I do it again, I’ll come prepared with more of the kinds of stories that they appeared to like best. My role felt more like that of entertainer than teacher, but I enjoy attention so that was fine with me. It’s really about all I’d know how to do with such a large and diverse group with no lesson plan anyway.

At seven o’clock I brought the festivities to an abrupt close and shot out of the building and straight over to MSLU, where I squeezed down a virtual birth canal of people standing in the aisle until I reached Alla, miraculously saving me a seat in the third row. I enjoyed the beauty pageant even more than I enjoyed the language school, and I’m strongly tempted to go to the city-wide pageant next month. Our event featured not only the talented and beautiful contestants, but other talented performers between competitions. City-wide should be even better, right?

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