Teach English in Hudong Zhen - Suqian Shi

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While selecting the subject for this task, I went through different rounds of filtering, listening to my heart strings ergo what inspires me in this job, the heart of it, what MOVES us. My background can explain this more sensitive decision-making approach. For one, and despite studies in English literature and civilisation, I have avoided working in any rigid structure of the French educational system. More and more French (students, trainees and trainers alike) are realizing our system hasn't changed or improved for decades, it hasn't adapted to new mentalities, to the languages themselves and their own evolutions. It also hasn't changed its ways of teaching, persisting in treating classes and students as blank sheets to project and transmit onto. A stiff programme is still being delivered, based on books, and no creative lively dynamic rapport is being developed to connect with the target audience, to stimulate their desire to be active and own it for themselves, connect with a 'reason' to do it at all. When I was given a trainer's job in a small family company in Normandy, the decision was based on me being bilingual, having lived abroad, being versatile, adaptable and customer-oriented throughout my experiences. I was surprised and scared that I was given workshops to animate and face-to-face to manage without much training or experience in this privileged position of being a 'teacher' to someone. I thought of ressources, lesson plans, books and manuals, appearing like a walking trustworthy awe-inspiring encyclopedia of knowledge to garner that automatic trust, respect and confidence from trainees, just like at school. This false old-fashioned impression didn't last very long. I immediately realized with relief that as long as you accommodate the vast range of feelings and thoughts from the other person (by being a good listener and never changing them to fit a mold), they'll provide all you need to prepare and explain and train. My customer-oriented skills were easily sollicitated and from my very first experience onward, with an exclusively professional adult audience, every need, update, change, fear, question, feeling, impression, prejudice would have room to be expressed, noticed, adressed, treated through a fundamental and very flexible rapport. And this unique rapport will come to be the key to all of those doors, windows and paths ahead. This rapport must be established, built up through the first session(s). I have known some colleagues that never felt the need or comfort to do that (« I don't like them », « they are here for just 10h », « I am not here to be their friend ») ; some time later their trainees would ask for a different trainer because THEY didn't feel comfortable or heard or taken into account within their own training time. They sat there, and went through the motions of a 'programme' wondering « what am I really doing here ? ». Then I was asked to take over and then the trainees would discover a new dynamic relationship in which their satisfaction skyrocketed. After 6 years of experience, I have to wonder just like my colleagues and management do, how am I doing this ? What do I reveal in that first contact/exchange with them, getting them to open up, be motivated and invested in their training ? I can't quantify or qualify this skill, since my approach and techniques certainly vary according to my trainees (who are very different in their personalities, age, background and traumas with language learning, their needs and capacities in assimilating new knowledge). It's very organic like any relationship is. There will always be this 5% that can't be taught at school or in a training course for trainers/teachers. So, establishing rapport is essential to understand and know our trainees, anticipating their problems, defusing them more easily, journeying more smoothly through the roller coaster that will be their training, and never swaying too far from a 'happy pleasant' dynamic to secure their brain with a constructive, positive, prolific experience. How to start this rapport then ? Let's never underestimate the time we spend on communicating outside of an activity or lesson plan or pedagogical GPS talk. The human aspect of being able to express our good will and intentions, our discretion, our non-judgmental approach in acknowledging their flaws, failures, limitations, problems. During a first session, I am only having an easy flowing conversation about English, why do they need it ? How do they feel about it ? We might have to go through a conversation about their school memories to determine what worked and didn't work for them then. Most French adults didn't like English (clear reference to my first paragraph). I am not a therapist, but I feel like I need to get any negative energy out of their system to gain confidence, to reconciliate them little by little with the joys of expanding their synapses on a very fertile ground. Back to this 'rapport' conversation, as their guide and partner walking by their side, I am able to connect with them by showing them that I too am a beginner learning Italian, for example. And their struggles are my struggles too. I empathize, I understand, and I can reassure them that none of their limitations are 'bad'. We aknowledge and carry on. Last but not least, for them to feel safe and trusting to open up and be active in their own training space, they have to see us as a comforting and helping figure, not a superior judging figure. I'll always remember the picture of a « manager » on top of a mountain screaming down at their employees to hurry up to reach their goals up there. That can be a pressure. Instead, there is this good « leader » that is behind their employees boosting and coaxing them patiently, based on their own speed and skills.