The Other Student Who Didn’t Pass

It’s generally the opposite of “good times all around” when students fail, as I found first hand in this story. And even when it is oh-so-clearly their own “work” (or lack of it), most people are not pleased.

I taught a man who was clearly an intelligent guy and apparently just… absolutely not oriented to language learning. The simplest things, in beginner level, he just couldn’t do. Sometimes even repeating things was a problem. I generally find myself fairly able to put myself in students’ shoes, and can more or less work out what the problem is. But it blew my mind with this guy. I don’t think the class figured in at the top of his to do list, but it wasn’t as if he was making a joke out of it. He came and more or less tried to do the work.

At one point he was going to miss some classes for a business trip, and explained in his language the situation; I understood him and could confirm that nothing was wrong with him in his own language

The test came. He took it and bombed. With all due respect I just cannot conceptualize how it is possible to bomb a beginners’ test like that.

Teachers had to have a meeting where we presented students with their results, and I was dreading his. Would he really show up? Oh yes. And when he appeared, he wasn’t upset or surprised at all. I even got a translator to come because I was so stunned at his reaction. He just said he had enjoyed the class and improved his knowledge – or something to that effect – and that was that. He might return the next term; he understood he wouldn’t be able to lin the next level, but would need to repeat this one again, and that was fine.

Somewhat ironically, I had also taught his boss, and had mentioned this in passing once when he told me where he worked. I don’t think he was concerned about this, but after his bizarro reaction to failing, it crossed my mind that this might have played a role (“The boss attended lessons here, with my teacher, and work is paying for me. Don’t complain!”).

It just goes to show, you can’t always predict how someone will react. Also, if you taught someone’s boss, let them know.