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At the end of some (not all) courses, management at our place issues students with a questionnaire eliciting their feedback on our efforts over the preceding five weeks. These are collected and briefly snickered over before being consigned to a cardboard box in some cupboard and forgotten about. Some students regard such forms as an invitation to whinge, others as an opportunity to butter us up and thus, in their mistaken view, gain preferment. Most, of course, are perfectly happy with what they get and say so. Today someone wrote:
I learn many useful thing, for example how to book ticket online.
Not what you might hope would stay with someone after a course in academic English, but nice to know that it wasn’t a total waste of his time. One little madam in my group ticked all the boxes in the ‘satisfactory‘column then appended woundingly:
The teachers are irresponsible.
‘Perhaps she meant ‘irresistible’?’ said a colleague, helpfully.
No, it was definitely a put-down, but then responses to these questionnaires are often internally contradictory. Why chuck in that comment, after pronouncing herself satisfied with everything? Could she not have elaborated a bit? Come on, love, did we come in late after playtime? Did we laugh at your accents? Did we unapologetically spill students’ pop, pinch their sweeties, dip their plaits in the inkwell, say ‘bums’ and ‘willies’ a lot and generally display indifference to their welfare and learning? Of course we bloody didn’t. Well, no point second guessing her. I don’t want to be like one Greek school owner I knew who issued a questionnaire to his teachers requesting their totally honest feedback, anonymity guaranteed, and then spent ages worriedly trying to work out who’d written the negative comments by matching up samples of handwriting. I suspect Chini thinks Alison and I were irresponsible because we didn’t tell them exactly what to do, what to write, what to think, and generally refused to do the arse-wiping she expects from her previous learning experience. It will, in her eyes, be my fault when she discovers that she has failed on her oral presentation with its powerpoint slides nicked from some online source, and on her essay, an impenetrable verbal thicket produced by writing the thing in Chinese, then whacking it through babelfish.
On feedback forms for our 'ELT Starter' course for neophyte teachers in Athens, we had the question ‘what aspects of the course could we improve?’ Several trainees over the years answered this with:
Right. We’ll get cracking on that. In the ‘anything else you would like to say?’ section, one young lady wrote:
I’ve learned that ELT is a magic world with lots of people in it.
‘Ahhhhhhhh!’ I said, imitating Vincent Price, ‘you see them too, do you?’
A few years ago at Essex university a young man from Thailand told me in a tutorial that he liked my lessons ‘because you are not serious’. I wasn’t sure what to make of that. Did he mean I was entertaining, or just a push-over in comparison with the rigorous approach of the other teachers? Teaching can make such a paranoiac of you if you let it. Today as she was leaving the classroom a young Chinese lady said ‘it was honour to be in your class’. I could put a cynical interpretation on that, especially as the results are not out and she knew we had a standardisation meeting to come this afternoon, but I won’t. I’ll accept the complement gracefully as a counterbalance to the ‘irresponsible’ bit, which has been irritating me all day like a bit of grit in my shoe.