The ups and downs of Adult ESL

My students are all adults. Most of them work full-time jobs and have families in addition to trying to improve their English. Attendance is always an issue. Most come when they can, but they aren’t always able to come. So it makes forward progress tricky. This semester, which we are three weeks into, is a perfect example. Especially in my night class.

I wrote earlier about how this class was too advanced for the lessons I use in the morning. I thought and read and finally came up with a new approach for that class. Last Monday when I planned to start it, I was disappointed to see that only two out of five students came to class. And, of course, they weren’t the two who most needed a different approach. So I quickly rethought everything and decided to go with the morning class plan for them, with the understanding that I might have to revise that plan if the others came on Tuesday.

Class on Monday went well. I had four students on Tuesday, including one of the really advanced ones. I stuck with the morning class plan, and it went pretty well.  I talked to the advanced student, and she was OK with it. She is able to help the others and does so quite willingly.  As we are doing a lot of writing, she is able to see where some of her weaknesses are, so it is useful for her. On Wednesday again it was just the two from Monday. We continued with the morning lesson and it went very well. They were amazed by how quickly the time went.

I say that I used the morning class lesson with this group, but that is only partially true. I adapted it. Because the students write the texts we read, the texts are different. The grammar points that come out of them are different. The oral reading and pronunciation activities are different because of the different sizes of the groups and their differing needs. I try to make it as appropriate for whoever in in class that night as I can.

But I have finally come to realize that these two women are the core of that class. They come almost every night, no matter what. They are the ones I need to concern myself with most. I can adapt for the others when they come, but I should not have to adapt the lesson for these two every night. They deserve to have a lesson that is truly appropriate for them. And that is what I am determined to give them — to the best of my ability.

Of course, as I write this on Saturday night, I know full well that the make up of the class next week may be quite different. I may have to reevaluate — again!  This drives me crazy sometimes, but it is also what I love about my classes. They keep me on my toes. I have to be creative and flexible. I complain sometimes, but I really wouldn’t have it any other way.



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