The Quiet Student (Or, Interview With A School Owner: Sue Of ELT Notebook)

mount_everest1.jpgEvery teacher feels bad about it: that one student who just doesn’t fit in. No one talks to him, no one particularly wants to work with him. But as Sue of ELT Notebook found, the right question can work wonders.

Sue had been teaching a multi-lingual group in the UK, including one very quiet Japanese student; he had become nearly totally excluded from other students’ conversations. No one wanted to work with him as a partner and it seemed that despite Sue’s best efforts to encourage him to speak, the class had more or less written him off. One day Sue found herself asking a number of “have you ever” questions…and when she asked this man “Have you ever climbed a mountain?”

She got “Yes…Mount Everest”. Apparently he’d been part of a Japanese expedition which had reached the summit. The other students’ respective jaws dropped and they started firing questions at him about it; this represented something of a turning point – after that he was included in the group, not only as an accepted member, but as a respected one.

I had the opportunity to do an email interview with Sue further regarding her extensive EFL experience and specifically her experience as the owner of a school. Read on for the first part.