The Helpful ESL Student

The verdict is in and the TEFL Logue is technologically inept. Recently, in an unfamiliar classroom, I had some trouble finding where to put the CD in the stereo. I know, I know, but really, is it that hard to make it user friendly? The cassette was displayed prominently on top, and some stereos in the building didn’t have a CD player – was this one of them? I waited until the break to investigate and hoped I’d have a minute alone with the stereo. No such luck. Fortunately, though, there was a helpful student who investigated with me so I didn’t feel so stupid, poking around the stereo with a blank look on my face.

In any case, the helpful student is the opposite of the student heckler. S/he may simply offer moral support – when a tizzy develops due to what students feel is an unclear example of the word “though” , “unless” or “indeed”, the helpful student might come up with a good English example, or successfully convince the others that in fact there isn’t a good translation.

If you, say, taught in a country which recently had a war, and you said something stupid which you nearly immediately realized would have different implications for them than for you, the helpful student will say, “Okay, next question”. When people are slow in coming up with ideas, the helpful student will put one out there.

In general, while it pays to be prepared and avoid looking dumb, I do think asking your students for help on occasion is a way of equalizing things. It could be about the city or the language or some local event, but it’s nice to show that you realize that you aren’t the only one with expertise to share.