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Earwax, flypaper, spleen, and windshield wiper 0

Dear Bradshaw,

What you wrote in your last letter about that guy confusing your shoelace for a snake and then whacking it with a spatula was hilarious. I laughed so hard milk came out of my nose and I wasn’t even drinking milk.

All is well here though it’s getting a bit nippy at night. It’s autumn after all and winter is on the way. Work is fine, for the most part, but can be frustrating at times. Some students seem to think they can learn English simply by paying for the lessons. They don’t realize it’s twenty percent what they do with the teacher and eighty percent what they do on their own. As if teachers are magicians who wave magic wands and — poof! — bestow ability and learning. Too many of my students study an hour a week and then forget about English until the following week’s lesson, which, for some students may be sufficient but, the mind being like a muscle, you have to exercise it regularly if you want to see significant results.

While reading an article or doing an exercise a student will often stop to ask me what a word means, and when I tell them they say “thanks” and then continue reading, and I wonder how they expect to remember the word if they don’t write it down. Sure enough, almost as often they encounter the word minutes later and again ask what it means… and AGAIN don’t write it down. Ho hum.

Nevertheless, I always write down new vocabulary and expressions that come up during the lesson, and when the student makes a mistake, I even write down exactly what they said and then rewrite it correctly. I don’t mind doing that but ideally the student should be the one writing this stuff down, right? After all, I already speak English. Meanwhile, most of my students don’t even bother to review the corrections I make (and send them home with) and I know this for a fact because when they return the next week and make the same mistakes, I write down the same things and they look at me perplexed, as if seeing it for the first time. And then they wonder why (and sometimes even complain) they’re not making progress.

Another thing that gets my goat is when I ask to see their vocabulary list and they knit their brows and wrinkle their foreheads because they don’t have one and, better yet, wonder why I would assume they did. Or the opposite happens = they have a list with words like earwax, flypaper, spleen, and windshield wiper, and when I ask if they think those words are useful, they shake their heads “no”.

See what I’m up against, Shaw? I not only have to teach people English but I have to teach them how to learn. As a teacher, I can explain the grammar, correct their mistakes, and give them homework, study materials, and offer suggestions and advice, but the student has to memorize verbs and vocabulary, study and do exercises and prepare.

Okay, enough said on this subject. I could go on but I figure you’ve got enough problems of your own and don’t need to hear about mine. Besides, I’ve been gone all day and Jimi is here, chomping at the bit. She wants me to chase her around, from here to the bedroom and back and, well, we could both use the exercise.

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