I’m going to Athens again tomorrow. On Sunday morning I am doing a five-hour session on Teaching Adults with a group of teachers who are more used to teaching kiddie-winks and would probably be a bit chary of taking on adult classes. ‘You could tell them about your approach!’ said my friend who is in charge of the show. She thought she was being helpful.
Yesterday and today, my brief was to introduce the idea of writing a ‘for and against’ type essay to a bunch of people who were not entirely sure what an essay is, let alone refinements on the genre such as ‘for and against’, ‘problem - solution’ and ‘opinion’. It might strike you as worrying that graduate students should be unable to tell you what an essay is, but I’ve learned to take this in my stride. There was even dispute about the number of paragraphs in the model essay I gave them for analysis;
‘One!’ (A one-paragraph essay?)
‘Two!’ (Oh, you’re so close but I’m afraid I can’t give it to you – any advance on two?)
Layout, then, is the least of their problems with writing. This is par for the course, I reason with myself. I can’t write essays in Arabic, and I’m sure there would be conventions in Arabic writing that might go over my head until someone drew them to my attention. What I would not do, given my ignorance, is devote only half my attention to the person charged with instructing me in essay writing. Bringing the class back together after pair-work discussion always requires three or four calls for their attention, and today I finally lost my rag. Just as silence had fallen and I began my next set of instructions, someone struck up another conversation and with my Domestos glare (Kills-All-Known-Bimbos-Dead) I snapped:
Didn't understand the words, all probability, these chappies, respond to tone of voice, though. Then I felt a bit of a heel and had to overdo the smilingly helpful bit until lunchtime.
After lunch I decided to work on a common Arab bronunciation broblem, that of distinguishing /b/ and /p/. Just as I was getting my trousers off on the subject, I heard Alexandros speaking Greek at normal Greek conversational volume (i.e., loud) into his mobile phone.
‘NOT-IN-THE-LESSON!’ I said, in capital letters and hyphens. ‘Turn it off. Now!’
I mean WTF? Like, WTFbloodyFF? I swear it wouldn’t surprise me if one day he got up and took a leak in the corner of the room.
At the end of the session I told them I would be away next week, and that ‘Y’ would be covering for me. Mohamed asked if they might have teacher X in place of teacher Y, because teacher Y ‘don’t tell us no talk.’
‘You are all adults!’ I said. ‘He doesn’t expect to tell you that!’
‘No, today, you speak us, no talking, no talk in mobile phone. Very strict, very good. Y very nice teacher but no enough strict.’
Right, like I said, on Sunday I’m doing a session on teaching adults. I’ve got all this stuff to impart about how adults can be self-starting and self-directing, but if any of the Athens teachers is reading this, remember, it’s bullshit. Just slap ‘em about a bit and show ‘em who’s boss. They’ll lap it up.