…..Or to be more accurate, we lost a student a week ago or so but it became clear today that there was no mending the fences. We are sad, we are very sad. We don’t know quite what went wrong.
We’ve had students come to a session or two and then disappear and then come back and then disappear and the reasons most often given, had to do with finances or schedules. But I can’t say I remember a time when a student just stopped coming mid session. How did we miss the problem? It is one of our most serious responsibilities to recognize when there is something amiss. This has us preoccupied in speculation.
We wrote to this student after the first missed class and then after the second and we were about to call this student in a final attempt to make contact when we received the letter. It was an angry letter and summed up how expectations were not being met and how proper teaching is done. We were hurt and concerned, but not defensive. If something isn’t working for someone, we need to know so that we can correct it or explain it. We were horrified that we were given no notice, that we only heard about the unhappiness when from the student’s perspective, it was too late.
Teaching Spanish is the way we make our living, but let me be clear, we chose this way to make our living because we believe in the cause. Our cause, our guiding altruism will soon be front and center and at the top of each of our web pages and it will read corny enough; “The first step on the path to world peace is as simple as talking to your friends and neighbors…in their language.” I love the ambiguity of this platitude because it applies to us literal language learners as well as those of us who will simply open our hearts to hear and respond in the way our friend and neighbor can understand. Yes, this is what we do to live, but Luis and I live to do this.
So when this student just left, well, we were left devastated. I am telling this story for two reasons. One as a kind of therapy for myself, but as well just so that you know how this kind of thing can impact your teacher.
I don’t know why this student decided to drop out. I do know what this student told us and I do know that we offered a sincere apology and a plan to correct what had felt bad and offered additional services above and beyond what the student had missed in the midst of their anger and disappointment, and I do know that all of this was rejected out of hand. Well, to be fair, I can’t read minds. I only know that after pouring out my heart and hearing nothing back, the next class was missed as well. I followed up this missed class with one final heart felt hand out but I fear we have lost this student for good.
The other interesting thing that I would like you all to know is this. Perception rules. After this destabilizing communication, I panicked. I quickly did what I should have been doing all along. I wrote to each and every student and asked them very specific questions about how they experienced the classes, if their expectations were being met, if there was anything we could do more of, less of, different. We received wonderful and constructive and helpful feedback. We have instituted many of the things that were suggested and we are so grateful that not only was the overriding tenor of the responses absolutely glowing and positive but that our students were taking risks with us and telling us how we could help more. That partnership between student and teacher is absolutely essential to a happily ever after. ESSENTIAL.
But I digress. My point here is that the classmates of the student we lost felt entirely differently about class than did this soul. But I am not saying that the student that was unhappy was wrong as a result of experiencing the class differntly than the others. On the contrary, what this student experienced was their legitimate reality and because of this, we had a responsibility to address the issues. Our profound regret is that our student had decided to write us off before they had, or given us a chance, to take “The first step on the path …” We are in mourning. -Joan
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