I’m sorry for my long silence. I’ve recently had limited internet access, and saved the 1 email worth of bandwidth I could get a few times a week for my mom.
But enough about me. Let’s hear about this technological black hole from which I’ve just emerged. I had an epiphany, they had an epiphany. It was brilliant.
In a traditional Karen class, all the students are together, regardless of level. They like being together. They’re school schedule makes it necessary. Their attitude on ‘sharing’ means that the best students will basically do the work for lower level students. The shy students can hide while brazen students monopolize the class. And with 25+ students, I’ve never found a good way to monitor this. I’ve always accepted that about 15% of the class will sweetly and patiently spend the entire month with a blank look on their faces and unable to say a word of English at the end. Even in these large classes it’s beneficial for them to be hearing and practicing English. But it’s frustratingly inefficient.
This time it was different; I had 24-ish students, ages 18-25. At this particular time of year they usually have a break to harvest rice, but my 24 students stayed behind for English. This means that I wasn’t competing with other classes for their time or attention. I could work with them in any size of group or combination that I pleased. The shy students can’t hide when you work with only 3 of them at a time. When you sit and patiently wait, sometimes for minutes, while they collect themselves enough to squeak out an answer to ‘what is your name?’.
They were each getting less classroom time, only 1-2 hours a day, but I felt confident that my method would pay off. And it did. After about 2.5 weeks, they started understanding me. My accent (many of them have never heard an English speaker, so they only know English with an incomprehensible Karen accent), my vocabulary. They started being able to respond, not just from a script, but pulling from the years of English classes they’ve had. Even the bottom 15%. I found the way to snag them.
It was my most encouraging trip yet. I got to see them really thrive, work through their shyness, and progress in leaps and bounds.