Conducting a Student Profile, and Receiving A Lot More ?You learn a lot in your classes, but

'You learn a lot in your classes, but you can't learn about human relationships and about life from a book.' -Julie Venci, Washington University

It was a little daunting at first. In fact, I was downright nervous. 'Go out and find someone in the community to do a student profile on.' Find someone in the community' I was already plunked half way across the globe, in a totally different culture attending a TESOL Certification course, and now I had to go out on my own and offer someone an hour-long, free one on one course'oh, my!

Conducting a student profile seemed like an impossible feat, but as time progressed I came to realize the importance of one. As described in a chapter from the Diversity Institute: 'In order to effectively choose teaching methods and help students learn, you must first know something about who you are teaching to'' On completion of my course, I intend to stay in Thailand and to seek a teaching position in one of the various schools. But how else could I get to know the people I would soon be teaching better than getting out and meeting some of them'

Deciding who I would ask was the hardest part. Various locals ran through my head that I had met: the local bar owner's wife, a waitress at a restaurant I frequented, a staff person where I was staying, even someone I had met out on the town. Eventually, I choose a local business man who I had met when I went to purchase my mobile phone. The biggest challenge in starting the student profile was getting up the courage to ask someone.

A student profile consists of two parts: the evaluation, and the lesson itself. The evaluation consists of a needs analysis, where you and your student decide what they would like to learn. And a placement evaluation, where the teacher does a series of tests (verbal, reading, and possibly written), to determine the level the student is at. My student was in the starter group decided by his pronunciation, answers to questions, and reading and comprehension ability. But what was important wasn't the completion of the evaluation and scheduling of the lesson, but the fact that he invited me to stay for coffee, to chat and get to know each other. It gave me insight into teaching and one on one lessons that I hadn't experienced in the classrooms yet'a building block to a relationship. The National Academies Press hit it nose on when they wrote, 'Good teaching requires that we bridge the chasms of perception, language, background, and assumption that may impede effective communication'' Effective communication begins with the formation of a relationship. Whether that relationship is formal, informal, friendly, or serious, the creation of one opens up the potential for greater learning.

The one on one community lesson has been one of the most enjoyable lessons I have taught as of now. I tailored a lesson to what he wanted to learn and things that I thought would be useful to him. We went through the material carefully and methodically, but with an ease and comfortable air that is only attained through conversation. On completion of the lesson, we talked about life, about his family, his businesses and about what I have experienced in Thailand so far. This gave me the opportunity to not only become a better teacher, but to understand the culture and be invited to see inside it a little more deeply. Rob Collins is quoted on the Washington University Service Office website as stating, 'Getting out into the community changes your perspective in a positive way, but you may not realize that until afterward,' and I couldn't agree with him more.

Resources: Diversity Institute: Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning, Importance of Knowing Your Students, 1997:'resources/resource- book/addressingstudentsneeds.htm

The National Academies Press:

Washington University in St. Louis Community Service Office: