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Diary of a Creative English Trainer: Day 14

Don’t sell yourself short

Now – my maiden name used to be ‘Little’ and I’m only 5 foot, so I have a predisposition for ‘selling myself short’!

But I’ve learned along the way that it’s amazing what people take in, even when you think you’ve presented the worst event possible.  Years ago, I ran a youth group.  I had a session for them in my front room and had invited a guest speaker.  He was elderly, had a strong regional, unintelligible accent, and spoke quietly and ponderously.  Not exactly the ticket for energetic teenagers with a zest for life.  However, about 9 months later, I was driving one of the girls home and asked her about a discussion topic (which had been covered by this guest speaker).  She said she knew all about it, because of the things the elderly guest had said.  I was amazed – this had been the most boring session I’d run during the youth programme, and yet here was a 14 year-old telling me she had taken in and digested valuable information. Just goes to show – you can lead a horse to water, but what he drinks is entirely up to him (with apologies for the crass use of an old proverb!) And it’s amazing what goes in!

So when I did the plenary for my Creative English class this week, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the enormous range of things that they declared they would be ‘taking away’ with them!  I often finish my sessions by going round the circle, throwing my bean bag to individuals and asking, “What was good today?”  This week I’d needed to integrate two new people with very limited English into the existing class, while covering the topic of talking to teachers.  I’d discovered in the middle that there was quite a big gap in some people’s understanding of verbs so I did a quick review of the verb to be.  When I went round the group at the end, the thing that one lady had taken in was an understanding of personal pronouns such as you/we/they. Erroneously, I had assumed that knowledge of this was a given, but they had ‘heard’ it for the first time and were taking the learning away with them.

At the beginning of the session we’d all had a good laugh trying to emulate the tottering stance of a toddler (which was a new word for almost everyone).  The plenary highlighted that quite a large number would be remembering this (which just goes to show how important it is to match a word with a kinaesthetic action!)

And towards the end of the session we elicited questions that teachers could ask parents and vice-versa.  One lady was very keen to play the part of the teacher.  Turns out she has 9 year-old twins, so it was obviously very pertinent to her. So when asked, “What was good today?” she very quickly replied, “Parents’ Evening”.

So I think we should all be encouraged: it is amazing what people take in from our sessions, and we should never feel dismayed about seemingly blank faces – you never know what people have learned! Don’t sell yourself short!