I’ve probably said this before in different words: teaching adults lets you know what you can do as far as purely teaching language. You get to leave the classroom management piece behind. Last night I had a very mixed group of adults including one very experienced person and one rank beginner who hadn’t ever seen the alphabet but knew four other languages. She said that she was just going to sit and observe, but the friend who brought her insisted she participate. I picked a really common question that I’d never practiced with them: “Where are you from?” and we told stories from there. We were going to be using the multi-directional, prefixed imperfective verb that means “one is leaving by vehicle” with the intermediate class, and so I worked that into a few little vignettes in the passport line entering Russia, because everyone ended up staying for both the beginner and the intermediate class. I wished Ben had been there, because he’s asked me lately to address the positive points of mixing levels. Mixing them slows me down so that the more advanced people actually pick up more, and the beginners can participate.
It gives me so much confidence in my teaching abilities after days when I am dealing with discipline issues in MS/HS to put a word or two on the board, PQA it a little, go really slowly, and follow whatever gets going. I don’t have to entertain so much. I can just enjoy these adults and their laughter, and we often end up being even more entertained than I am in my kids’ classes.
So rarely do we get to really measure what we could do if we only had “the ideal class,” or to hone our skills. Usually that only happens when we’re in a coaching group, and that’s often way too unrealistic because everyone’s trying so hard. Offering adults a chance to learn is very rewarding.
Here are two highlights from that class: first, one of the former beginners walked out having figured out how to form accusative case for motion toward a place (I didn’t explain it like that, of course–he asked me about an ending, and then nailed it a bunch of times, pleased as punch), and then that beginner left, telling me that she was traveling to Phoenix soon. I myself couldn’t have used that verb in that situation correctly three years ago. It’s her only verb of motion, but still! She used the right tense, the right form…
I can still do this!!