I have been teaching the pre-intermediate class for two days now. I only have 2 students at the moment, as on of them has moved to the intermediate class. After two days in I finally get a clearer picture of what is going on with the subjects of my research.
Yuichi, the hearing impaired student (HIS) is performing much better than I expected, even given his hearing impairment. His grammar is rock-solid for the level he is in, and he reads and does the written work exceptionally fast. I find that the only difficulty I have when teaching him is when we try to speak to each other, and I believe that will be the best goal I can set – to enable Yuichi to hold a decent conversation with another person in English, without too much dependence on writing things down to clarify (which is the strategy I have resorted to for the moment for when communication breaks down).
My other student, and middle-aged Japanese gentleman who goes by the nickname ‘Hoy-hoy’ is a retired medical technician (a guy who handles lab equipment etc. in hospitals). He works very hard, bless his soul. He makes up for what he lacks in proficiency with ever-present smiles and an overabundance of enthusiasm. Nevertheless, it still poses a challenge for me, as I believe that Hoy-hoy may not belong in the pre-intermediate level. His reading and writing skills and barely passable for the grade, and during the listening activity we had in class today, he did not even manage to get a single answer right. This was after listening to the text a number of times, which confirms my suspicions that not only is the speed of speech in the present level too fast for him, he does not understand many of the words. But he tries, with Kamikaze spirit, in the true Budo tradition as befitting his ancestors.
Between the two, my work is cut out for me. Since teaching this level, I have had to slow down my speech considerably, focusing on every word, making everything count. Often times I have to repeat the words a few times for them both, and even more so with Yuichi as he struggles to understand spoken English. This may sound funny to many people, but I even strained my neck the first day in class, from excessive nodding and gesturing, exacerbated by having to do many of the actions and repeat the words in slow motion, and moving my head up and down to provide more a more visual, exaggerated form of communication that many ESL teachers teaching foreign students are familiar with. In fact, as I write this, my neck is still sore.
Laugh all you want.