Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

About a month ago the Chinese school where I teach English as a second language asked me to cover the Elementary class for a while.

This was a challenge. I’d taught Advanced English classes right down to Pre-Intermediate level before – but Elementary?? Without knowing any Chinese, how on Earth was I going to do that for three whole hours? Every day? Indefinitely???

But then, maybe I’d got it all wrong. Maybe they knew a bit more than just “hello.” Or maybe they only knew “hi.” I just didn’t know, simply because I’d never really met them before.

To make matters worse, I was told that they felt apprehensive of me for much the same reasons.

Well – if God could pull this off, it could be another very useful new skill. It was definitely a task for my daily stock teaching prayer: “God, I know you love these people, and I believe that you want to teach them English, and you seem to want to do that through me, so I just want to get out of the way and let you do it.” It’s worth noting here that as well as my giving it to God, I was also convinced that it would take a genuine commitment from me too, to get him on board.

The first morning. The course director had equipped me with a heap of advice, and the teacher from the next classroom had matched it with a couple of huge children’s storybooks.

I strode confidently in to face the room of about a dozen chatting adults, and wondered if I could get away with spending the whole three hours carefully putting my coffee cup down.

“Good morning!” I bellowed slowly and cheerfully in a way not entirely dissimilar to Troy McClure.

“Good morning!” they all chanted back. Good, that was four seconds. Only another 10,796 to go, this was going well so far.

Within the first minute someone asked me to slow down, and I realised that this just might be the key to making it through to lunchtime.

That first lesson was definitely the make-or-break one. By now I had been told a few phrases that they already knew, and I slowly milked them for all they were worth. Everyone got plenty of opportunity to understand what I was saying and prove it.

Come twelve o’clock, it was the course director’s turn to pile on the encouragement – to me. “You’ve done it. You’ve befriended them, and they’ve accepted you.”

Well of course I had. I’d had to. I’d had the General Manager and the Principal watching.

As the days became weeks, and the weeks became a full month, the best thing would be the pleasure of getting to know them all. A few people left the class finding my speech too difficult, which is cool and to be expected, and a few others joined to hear a native English speaker from England. They even took me out to yum cha:

Finally one lesson there was a knock on the door, and their proper teacher returned. It was welcome back, goodbye and see you later all at the same time.

I still see them around the school, and today both their regular teacher and I took them on a field trip to Remuera Library to hear a talk on homeopathy:

Some of them want to join the homeopathy course that I’m to teach from next term. For those who don’t, it’s encouraging to know that I’m now their relief teacher of choice.

It’s been a very hard month, learning to communicate using even less English than usual, but in one way it’s panned-out just as I expected. It seems that, thanks to God, I now have that new skill.

Despite this, I paradoxically feel that I’ve been taught far more this month than they have.


2 comment(s):

At 9:34 am, Blogger KlownKrusty said...

Hi, I'm Steve Goble. You may remember me from such blog entries as "The Bible's Biggest Contradiction" and "They Saved Roobarb's Brain"...

At 12:06 am, Blogger Steve Goble said...

...but today, I'm here to talk to you about... the children...


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