Tuesday, February 26, 2008

New term

I learned a new term yesterday. One of the Basic English students came into my office and told me she needed an "excuse-me" for her class. (She used the term several times as she was trying to explain her situation, so I know I didn't hear her wrong.)

I love it!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

He came back again

Yesterday he (the student I hid from the other day) popped in ... again. Wanted to know if the test scores were back yet. (They're not, which means I'll get to see him at least one more time before the end of this week.)

In fact, I was so good (and feeling a tad guilty about the other day) yesterday that when he said (as usual), "May I come in?" I had an easier than usual time NOT groaning and saying "If you must". I've never done that yet, but I occasionally am afraid it's only a matter of time.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

I have seen the future -- and it ROCKS!

The other day one of our publishing reps called. We purchase materials for our program from several publishers, but Pearson-Longman (or just Pearson ... or maybe Longman -- they keep using all three names in various materials, so how do I know which is right? Maybe it's the corporate version of being Jonathan, Jon and Johnny) --
-- at any rate, this publisher -- let's just call it Longman, for simplicity's sake -- is the one we use most, and the rep is terrific. She's a delightful woman, and really-truly-honest-to-goodness knows her product line, the audience and the subject to be covered. That's all too rare these days, in textbooks or almost any other subject, and I really enjoy a product presentation from someone who has done her homework. This lady is that kind of person.

So she came today with an educational consultant (another very charming person) to show me some new materials. I figured the meeting would take half an hour -- maybe 45 minutes.

Nope -- two solid hours. Normally I would have been checking the clock and, if necessary, inventing a meeting that I had to attend. But no, I was in the middle of a demonstration that made me both excited and apprehensive.
Excited, because I thought the product was OUTSTANDING and I really want us to have it for our program.
Apprehensive, because I've seen similar (but inferior) products from other vendors, and the cost of those was way beyond outrageous.

But NO!! It's affordable!! And doable!! I AM SO TOTALLY GEEKED ABOUT THIS!!
Hmmmm ... I have a PhD and what did I just say? That I'm "totally geeked". Now, really, Miss Tara ... is that very dignified? Harrumph.
Dignified or not, it's certainly the truth. I am totally geeked -- and also thrilled, excited, inspired, and breathlessly anticipatory about the new Longman Interactive (TM) software.

The package is amazingly well put together -- and it's affordable. I can hardly wait to start showing it to my instructors next week!!

Check it out: longman.com/interactive

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

I just can't help it!

I almost feel guilty.
But not quite.

One of the Basic English students came in today and I must admit that I more or less hid and let my project specialist deal with him.
But his question was the same one he's asked me just about once a week for the past three months.

Today I found out that my project specialist and I aren't the only ones who've had to patiently give him the same answer to the same question on a weekly basis. It's also been happening in our registration office. Same student, same question, same answers.

The problem is that he doesn't like the answer.

You see, he wants to enter the College -- go into credit coursework -- but his test scores don't permit it. We're not the ones stopping him. The final tests we give in the highest level in our program (Basic English 5) are scored by the same people who score the (identical) tests given in Admissions.

Unfortunately, he just hasn't yet achieved the level of skill he needs to move forward. He says he's trying, and I think he is making an effort.

Part of the problem is that he's a little over 70 years old; it's harder to gain basic literacy skills at this age. On that level, he's done incredibly well to move as far as he has in the time since he began.

Unfortunately, the other part of the problem is his belief that he's more skilled than he is, and it's very hard to get him to understand otherwise.

I am normally a pretty patient woman, but there comes a point when I just want to say, "You're not listening to me!"


Apparently I need to work on lessons in patience.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Those pesky phrasal verbs

Phrasal verbs  are one of the more annoying parts of learning English. They're annoying in large part because they make no logical sense at all and can be mastered only through memorization. 

A phrasal verb consists of a verb plus one or more prepositions or similar particles, with the combination often having only a tangential relationship with the original verb. 

For example, if you look up the verb get in the dictionary, the number of phrasal verbs that have very little to do with the main meaning  of the verb ("to obtain") is beastly:   
   I get up at 6:00.
   She needs to get over him.
   Get out!
   Get in the car. 
Then look up take or break. It's amazing that anyone ever masters the intricacies of the language.

Several years when I was teaching only part-time, I returned to class too soon after a minor surgery.  (After all, if one doesn't have sick leave, recovery time is an unaffordable luxury.)

As we were reviewing homework, the room suddenly faded to black, my ears started buzzing and the floor began tilting. I grabbed onto a table for stability, thinking, "I will not faint in front of my class. I won't I won't I won't."

Through all the fuzziness, I heard one student's voice clearly:  "Miss Tara, are you going to pass away?"

Even fear that I was going to hit the floor couldn't stop me from correcting her:  "You mean 'pass out' -- and I don't think so now."

Friday, February 1, 2008

Basic English vocabulary

The other day two new students -- refugees from Burundi -- came into my office. "Adele" wanted to be sure she and her sister were headed for the right class. The conversation went something like this:

Adele:  "Me go room 204?"

Me:  "Yes, you will go to room 204."

Adele: [indicating her sister] "Me, her, go room 204?"

Me:  "Yes, you will both go to room 204."

Adele:  "You go me-her room 204?"

Me:  "Would you like me to go with you to show you the room?"

[Enthusiastic nodding.]

As we were leaving my office, Adele dropped her water bottle and said, very clearly, "S**t! [pause] 'Scuse me."

Apparently the list of "basic" vocabulary words includes a few items a lot of people wouldn't necessarily expect.