I’ve gone through a very interesting experience recently. A friend of mine who is also a teacher recommended me to one of her friends who has a teenage daughter. My friend’s friend was looking for someone to help her daughter with her school marks in English subject. So, my friend’s friend phoned me about a month ago. I always decline this kind of offer because I believe that it takes time for one to really understand and be able to use language more effectively. It’s really risky to take a student in for that reason. I can’t. So, I always decline. But I never let them go without any kind of help, so I offer the student the possibility to have at least one meeting to help them to think of what they have been learning, what is expected from them and how they can actually study on their own to make it happen. What I do without charging is just to guide them through to what they already know and help them to self-organize themselves. I don’t charge as this would also put me into a position of co-participation in the results. I know I do, but charging me it is your fault if I fail. I can’t take the risk. I’m glad to say though that all the times I’ve done this, the students succeed in their tests and are thankful for what I offer them. I’m happy to be part of their success, but I usually remind them that they did it, I just had pointed the direction. In the case of my friend’s friend daughter, we couldn’t set up a meeting as the free time we had at the following weeks of her first call weren’t really matching. But as I didn’t want the girl without any support, I came up with the idea of distance support. That was totally new for me and for her too. But at the end all worked out and I just got a phone call from her saying she got the top mark.
In her first contact, her mother told me how anxious she was about this test and her grades hadn’t been good and she was so afraid of having to say in front of the class a short paragraph. She got her daughter on the phone to talk to me and explain to me what she needed help with and what time she was free to meet. At the end of the conversation some things were clear.
1- We were not going to meet.
2- If I wanted to help her somehow, I would need to try out something using digital tools and phone calls.
3- She would need to follow my instructions carefully.
AND so she did. Everythink I asked her to do, she did. She got my email address and sent me straight way through email the paragraph she had to learn to pronounce correctly. Still on the phone we discussed the meaning of the words/phrases/sentences and what they meant for the presentation to help her visualize the text not as a group of words but as part of the school project. Why was this important? Reading and pronouncing words without imaging the content and the relation it has to real stuff would be meaningless. So we took sometime working on this on the phone. About 10 minutes discussing and notetaking. Once I got the email, I recorded two versions of the paragraph using my cellphone and uploaded as mp3. I wanted to make sure she would have no problem listening to it in any player or even downloading in her cell. One version for her to hear each word in isolation but still keep the meaning relation between each other (so I recorded really slowly for her to have a sense of the sounds and how they blended together), and a second one for her to work on her fluency of speech. Getting it right and speaking as natural as possible. Then, after few days she called me again. In this second call, she read it out so I could check if she was reading it out fluently and I took notes of what words she was still not getting right. I gave her the feedback she needed and then she called me few days later. This time she told me without reading it out. Only couple of words to work on.
I hadn’t heard from her until she called me about an hour ago. I think last time we had spoken was about couple of weeks before today’s call. Not sure, but what matters though is that she DID it! With some help and her willingness to do it well, she excelled. I’m so proud of this girl whose face is still unknown to know.