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Confessions of an English teacher in Paris – Part 1 – Chilled Learning

Five pairs of eyes were fixed on me, waiting for me to open my mouth. I drew a deep breath and threw my voice forward. Good Morning everyone. I paused, and waited as they hesitantly replied Gud M…awn…eeeng. I covered my smile and went quickly into introductions. This was going to be a long lesson. I had my work cut out with this bunch.

Group profile:

Number of participants: 5

Gender: all male

Age range: 50-60

Job skill set: manual/technical

English level: beginners

My friendliest group of students ever, these guys had been working in the company since they had left school and for some of them had only a short time to go until they retired. While they did need English in their job, it was an unspoken truth that they wouldn’t be becoming bilingual any time soon, and classes were as much a time to chill as a time to learn something. While classes are always relaxed, chilling is not really an option. The focus should be on learning. Unless of course I could find a way to combine the two.

Me: Ok, time to get to know everyone …

Mr P: Time? Hmm … Oh, tiiiimeu. What time ees eet?

(Everybody looks at their watch)

Mr M: Eet ees … hmm … (with fingers) … one … two, …

Me: That’s very good. The time is … important. It is also … important … to … get … to … know … everybody. Do you understand?

All: Hmm … we not understand

Me: … to … get … to … know … means … to introduce a person.

It’s true I had my work cut out here, walking the fine line between encouragement and discouragement, a single word having the power to topple everything. But the show does go on and so do introductions. Even chilled style. And even with a cloudy accent. Seven days later, punctual to the post, they were all back ready for more.

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