The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hard lessons

I’m now halfway through my summer teaching and I’m definitely finding the stuff outside the classroom is raising more issues in the staffroom than the teaching itself. The ongoing theme of our Wednesday staff meetings, apart from the usual moans about jamming photocopiers, has been the extent to which we should be responsible for students’ welfare outside the classroom.

In the first week, a distracted Chinese student was hit by a car crossing the road. Fortunately, she suffered no more than a wrenched shoulder and a few cuts and bruises, but was taken to hospital and kept in overnight. Quite a traumatic experience for a young woman who’d only been in the country for a few days. Then, one of my own students was burgled after going out and leaving the window of her ground-floor room open. Another upsetting and disillusioning experience.

We all agreed that both students needed practical help and reassurance from their teachers and other staff. More contentious was what we could do to avoid or deal with such incidents in the future. One teacher suggested that the course induction should include more advice about road safety and personal security. Another commented that maybe teachers should receive some training in counselling students. This provoked reactions about mollycoddling, treating students as adults, independence and our role as teachers.

It’s a tricky one, because although our students are adults, they’re mostly only in their early twenties and for many, it’s their first time away from home, let alone in a foreign country. Part of me thinks that they’ve chosen to study abroad and that they have to be prepared to be independent and if necessary, learn hard lessons from their mistakes. I can think of a whole host of “bad” things that happened to me in my late teens and twenties that caused a lot of stress and heartache at the time, but taught me lessons for the future. Or is that a bit of a ‘grumpy old woman’ thing to say?!

This week another spanner was thrown in the works when I got a message passed through one of my class on Monday that another of my students had been taken ill during a trip to London over the weekend and had been taken to hospital. My reaction, especially after everything that’d gone before, was to raise the alarm and set the process of finding and checking on her in progress. After lots of asking around, we managed to track her down, not in hospital at all, but fit and well and just staying over with friends in London. The expression “crying wolf” springs to mind …

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