I teach a two hour block on Tuesdays of relatively advanced students. Having a two hour time slot has its challenges. We have time, yet I want to squeeze in as much as possible to make it worth their while. It never works that way.
I’ve been on this homonym kick lately (you remember those, right?). At the level of this particular class, where they can have a basic conversation at least, they’re more aware of English. Which means they’re more aware of its idiosyncrasies. Which means my 30 minute homonym lesson becomes a one hour and fifteen minute homonym lesson.
I got to the center today willing myself to keep it short and move on.,
I began with a basic: to, too, two
This reminded someone of the number four and its counterpart, for. I wrote on the board, “for, four”.
Have you ever tried explaining the meaning of “for”? They started throwing out examples for “for”. Like, “for example”, “for sure”, “I have something for you”. The dictionary didn’t help much; it had about ten different explanations for “for”. And it told me for is a preposition and a conjunction, which is great, except that is a whole other lesson, two in fact.
I went back to my list and we made it through “band” and “banned” without incident. Well, except for the minor set back of using the past tense of banned in a present tense sentence like, “It is banned to smoke here”. Again, several grammar lessons packed into that one sentence.
Another student said, “I read in a book the word “bank” and it wasn’t about where you keep your money.” We put up the words and talked about the place you put your money and a river bank.
“Like the picture on the wall?” he asked.
I said, “No, that’s a cliff. See how high it is? And that body of water is the sea, not a river.” I added “body of water”, “cliff”, “sea”, “ocean”, “shore” to the board. Tangent number three.
Just when I thought we could move on, a student said, “Bank means trust.” I said, “I don’t think so.” He said, “Yes, for example, I bank on the Day Worker’s Center to give me work.” Oh. Teacher gets taught.
So you can see why a simple English lesson is never simple. Even for the English teacher.