Today, I concluded my first week of classes. It's had its share of ups and downs what with my schedule being total chaos with things being switched on me every couple of hours and being thrown into classes without anything prepared.
The last class was by far the worst. It is totally possible to fill 20 minutes if you are given a class you've never met before. Perhaps you can even fill more time, if they are particularly strong group. You have them ask you questions about yourself, and when they can't think of anything else, you make them tell you about themselves (name, favorite animal/series/color, what they want to be when they grow up). If they are a particularly weak group, you come up with another basic conversation topic: what you should do in Alsace, or perhaps their stereotypes about America/California.
But say you are given a weak group, a group whose English skills are lacking and whose English skills are lacking because their study habits are lacking, and say you are given them for an 45 minutes with no other instructions other than: "Have them ask you questions. Get them to talk.", then what?
As soon as I knew I was going to have a weak group for an hour (well really 47 minutes), I knew I was in trouble. I've had weak groups before, and the thing about weak groups is that they don't want to talk. Them asking me questions lasted maybe 10 minutes; them telling me about themselves took maybe 15; them telling me about their stereotypes about America/California took maybe 5. So I have 20 minutes left to kill. So, I go to my back up question: "What should I do here in Alsace?" Nobody says anything. So I decide to broaden it: "What should I do in France?" Nothing. "Okay, I'm in Europe. There has to be something I should see in Europe. Any suggestions?" Then I say that each person is going to tell me something I should do. I point to a person and make them start.
This person proceeds to completely misunderstand my question. She thinks I've asked if she would prefer to live in the US or Europe (Who knows how she got THAT). But I decide to just go with it, the question becomes "Where would you like to live?" At least, 80% of the class says they want to live in the US, which is funny considering how little they seem to care about learning English. *sigh*
Unfortunately, there were still 10 minutes left after this which led to much panic and fluster. Thankfully in the end they saved me by FINALLY volunteering to ask some questions.
Two weeks from now, I'm supposed to do this again with the weaker half of the class (yes, apparently this was the strong half). I'll have to think of some sort of activity because this is NOT going to work.
But not all of the classes have been this tough, some of them have been quite fun. Especially the stronger ones because we can actually have a real conversation (it's not just me reciting boring facts about myself over and over). The students can be quite funny sometimes.
Hopefully next week will have some more structure.