Intensive by name, intensive by nature

I no longer work in a language school, but have not forgotten what July meant to me professionally: summer school.

Having plodded steadily through the academic year, students and teacher alike are usually ready to say goodbye at the end of June. Theoretically, objectives have been achieved and it’s time to turn collective thoughts to more enticing matters, namely the summer holidays.

It is therefore a certain type of student that is attracted to a month’s intensive course in the summer. These can be broadly divided into 4 categories: high-functioning and efficient; low-functioning and a bit desperate; child/adolescent taking advantage of the extended summer break and finally child/adolescent suffering the consequences of under-achievement in English during the previous academic year. I felt sorriest for the last category, especially as these courses are intensive by name, intensive by nature.

One July a number of years ago, both sets of my intensive classes contained samples of the cross-section and sub-categories of the language learning community in high summer. I made a note of it at the time. I wonder if any other TEFL teachers recognise these students….

1. The A-grader – practically perfect in every way.

2. The Desperate One – needs English right now, in fact needed it yesterday. Easily frustrated. Very hard to explain to this student that language learning is a continual process and not a series of boxes to be ticked or exams to be passed.

3. The Eternal Pre-intermediate – whatever level this student is in, they will persist in using the present simple for everything, past, present or future, and never remembers the 3rd person “s” (that one’s for TEFL geeks!).

4. The Precocious Child – slightly scary creature this one. Is at least 3 years younger than the rest of the group, legs swing from the chair because they’re not long enough to touch the floor. Gets nearly everything right, making the 40 year olds feel a bit stupid.

5. The 17 Year Old Boy – basically a good kid who will turn out just fine. Eventually. For now communicates via a series of grunts in the style of Beavis and Butthead (when not having a power snooze during class).

6. The Stress-Head – very similar to Desperate. Puts everyone on edge.

7. The Know It All – usually doesn’t.

8. The Joker – oh how we laughed (politely).

9. The Hard Worker – may not have natural ability, but applies logic and intelligence, usually with pleasing results.

10. Nice but Dim – Oh dear. However much you support this student, it’s not going to happen anytime soon. Affects a blank look of incomprehension, or worse, fear when directly asked a question.

If you’re teaching summer school this month, good luck…..and console yourself with the fact that holidays are just around the corner.

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