A Photo Op

I teach English classes at a local farmers-aid non profit a couple times a week.  I started showing up there as a chance to get out of the house a little bit more, and make my face and my intentions better known in the community.  It’s been a good experience because I’ve been able to create my own lessons, rather than being tied to the (awful) textbooks that we must follow at school.

But while it’s been nice, the class has been struggling.  It’s had a high rate of turnover.  A lot of students are suprised to hear that I’m not taking any money for the class, and many of them just show up to see what the American is doing.  In other words, they don’t seem to have much of a real desire to learn English (though there are a few students who have been impressive).  In some ways, the no-money thing has been working against me, as students can just pop in and out, with out any sense of commitment to the class.

This was exemplified yesterday, when my class met at our usual tuesday morning meeting time.  There were some familiar faces there, including some students that hadn’t been there for a couple weeks, and a couple new faces too.  Then, all of the sudden, five new students walked in and sat down.  This got the total up to about 10, which is what I’ve been aiming for the whole time.  Soon after the students sat down, the guy that runs the building came in, snapped a few photos, and then all the new students left.

It bothered me.  The appearance of being a successful course seemed much more appealling to them than to actually go out and try to get these students to be a part of what I was doing.  After they left, I went out to the hall and told them, “If that’s what you’re all about, then don’t come to my class anymore.”  The idea of me being a free resource is an assett, as I’m providing something that hasn’t existed before.  At the same time, something needs to happen so that they have a mutual sense of development, rather then simply a class that can be picked up and put down whenever they feel like it.

I have a desire to be inclusive, so that people who might not normally have opportunities to do something like take an english class can attend, but I think some standards need to be discussed.  It’s a fine line, and one that I’m sure I’ll be working on for the next 20 months or so.

2 responses to “A Photo Op

  1. Very interesitng story. But you can use a mechanism to punish those who are not committeed to the class. Just let studnets know that they will loose their right to attend the class if they miss more than two classes in a semester wihtout any legitimate reason. That is it. In villages of Azerbaijan it could be hard to get money for anything. But using clever mechanism u canachieve the same result as by charging fee.

  2. That’s the danger of the free class. It’s suggests ‘not worth anything’. I’ve run into this before doing the same thing. Another strategy could be charge a nominal fee, use it to provide the students with food or something in the class, and waive the fee for anyone who really wants the class but can’t afford it. This is probably too late to matter, but I figured what the heck. It’s good to see you’re doing good stuff, Jeff.


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