Monday, August 2, 2010

English Conversation Class: The Truth

Most of us foreigners start our English teaching careers at English schools and slowly end up moving into private classes. Those private classes then slowly move into conversation classes. 

I know what all of you are thinking, Conversational English?!  Super easy job!  Ok, there are perks. I don't have to prep myself too much and the students do most of the talking, usually. 

But it's not as easy as it seems.  There are special students that make conversation classes particularly difficult.  For example: 

The shy student.  This one doesn't like to talk in their own language, much less a second one.  You practically have to verbally beat out their hobbies and interests in order to find things they are so passionate about that they can't help but talk about it.

The overly verbal student. Sure, this one sounds like heaven but it's hard to teach someone who doesn't shut up.  You know the guy, the one can't get a word in edgewise.  He says everything incorrectly and you can't correct him worth a damn.  Basically, you have to get annoying. You have to talk over them. The great thing about this type is that they usually aren't easy to offend.  They'll learn.

The humorless.  You joke and you confuse them.  The only thing you can do is not joke. Very dry classes.

The invisible Student.  They don't show up. How can you teach them? They pay you for flaking but it's still a bit annoying since you have organized your schedule around the class. Couldn't they just call you to let you know they are going to flake last minute and still pay you? That'd be great.

The drunk. They want to have class at the bar.  Sounds like fun but you end up spending the money you made from class on the beer you drank at class. You see the problem.

The sensitive student.  This person is embarrassed every single time you correct them. It's so bad that you, the English teacher, feel bad for correcting them!  It's an issue. You spend half the class pumping up their self esteem. I don't really see a problem in this because crying in English is still English. 

I have to say that I currently have none of the above. I love my students and enjoy having classes. Look at that!  But I want to hear from you fellow English teachers. Actually, all teachers!  Who are you special students? 


  1. I've had all of these except for The Drunk (luckily). But very nice! I'm gonna add a link to this post on MY post about types of private students. :)

  2. Very nice post! LOL! I'm not a teacher, but I'd like to say something. Will you hear anyway? :P I'm looking for english classes with native english speakers, my wife is looking for it as well. Do you have any time for teaching us?

  3. Hi Diogo, I do have time in the afternoons, starting next week. Send me an email at

  4. I think I mentioned this type of student over at Danille's blog: the therapy-seeking student. This student is looking for a new BFF but finds themself paying for the privilege. All I have to say is "And how does that make you feel?" They do the rest.

    When I taught large conversation classes at my previous school employer I used to have students draw from a deck of cards. Each student would get a card. Then I would cut the remaining deck and have anyone with the same number respond to the next question, or all those holding the same suit, etc. This helped keep the big talkers quiet and provided nonjudgemental challenges for the quieter ones to speak up. The kids liked the "good luck/bad luck" nature of this approach.

    I have one student now who hates all things Brazilian and has nothing but venem for President Lula. (Opposite of me.) While I try to steer clear of politics for fear of biting his head off and scaring him away - he loves to stay on this topic. It's a challenge.