Learning from students

by Vilosopher

Watching every day how some students are doing great and some keep failing (academically), I’ve learned so much about life in general! All these kids start fresh with zero knowledge about the Russian language what so ever. At the beginning of the year we all make certain predictions on how they would do. Based on their level of education, the result of the language aptitude test, a number of languages they already speak, age and personality features, we like to guess who will go far and who will cause the most troubles. But… the outcome is always so surprising! It never works as how you expect it… It makes me think about my own language learning experience and about life in general…

For instance, I realized that “smart” students will mostly show average results. Surprising? Their language aptitude test score is high. They speak other languages. They went to college or just are well-read, educated people. But… Most of them have a certain attitude or an ego thing that holds them. They know they are smart and they don’t see why they should work hard: Things used to come effortlessly to them. They also don’t trust you completely. They doubt things you do. They are often sceptical and make good debaters in class. Sometimes, they are talented in particular areas and they ignore everything outside this. Just like we often see in life, smart kids don’t always make the richest and the famous.

Another thing that keeps me amazed is how some students build obstacles that prevent them from learning out of thin air. Capable, energetic students suddenly decide that they have bad pronunciation and, therefore, they can’t move on! The student  starts searching for articles, software and tutors to help her with her “bad” pronunciation. She is missing out everything else and eventually drops out, because she decided for herself that it’s not for her. In 99% of cases the student has normal or even good pronunciation, and all this noise was unnecessary. Or a student decides that the whole program is made in the wrong way. He starts writing letters to the superiors explaining his concern; he has long debates with the teachers proving that they teach in a wrong way. A lot of energy is spent because of… fear?…  I recognize this technique in everyday life too – instead of rolling up the sleeves and set to work, people start building these ridiculous obstacles to avoid the actual process. I stopped doing this for myself. Every time I recognize such behaviour, I ask myself, “Is it really THAT important or you are this student with the “bad” pronunciation?”

Another curious observation is the magic of positive attitude and acceptance. We all have heard how important it is to stay positive, to open your mind, to be kind and generous, and understanding. But… we underestimate how much it can actually do for you! Average students who come straight from the backwoods with the vague idea of where mother Russia is located on the map skyrocket in their language abilities if they just accept everything and stay positive during the course. They don’t cry over the irregular verbs and don’t brawl because the homework is as long as “War and Piece”. They just take things as they are and smile. They set the positive atmosphere in class and learn things faster and better! I never thought how important acceptance for language learning. You don’t fight a language. You have to take it all – with all its exceptions, spelling, cultural particularities, etc.

At last… Nobody likes to work with slow students, but these students need you the most. Most of them are not slow, but untouched. They are clean. They have no skills or techniques for learning; they don’t have this learning muscle yet. Some of them just don’t believe in themselves yet; nobody ever encourages them or show them how smart and capable they are. But if you manage to give them what they are missing, they bring you the most beautiful and rewarding results. You have to give a chance to everyone in life. everyone deserves a sticker 🙂

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