3 Things I Learned from Students

Interacting with students is both rewarding and stimulating. I receive frequent reminders that there’s more for me to learn about the English language. Here’s what students have taught me over the years:

1. Their eyes and ears  work for me as well. Students are very observant, and they are likely to repeat the language they hear often. One of my private students works in a U.S. company, and during a recent discussion about work environments, she explained how the company upskills their staff. …Pause. Upskill? “Have I ever used that word?” I thought. Consulting my favorite dictionaries, I confirmed that the verb was used appropriately. However, one source listed upskill as transitive, a second listed it as ergative, and a third noted it was used in British English. In this case, I trusted my student to give me authentic examples of American usage. We talked more in detail about how a company can upskill employees or why it’s important to upskill.

2. Their questions help me organize and fine-tune my knowledge. A YT viewer asked this past week about the phrase “owing to the fact that.” I realized I’ll likely have to add a lesson to my video series on prepositions, particularly on formal constructions that are more common in writing. I should also further address wordiness and the importance of being concise where possible. Owing to is potentially clunky.

Another follower on Simor just asked me about -ing words after adjectives. Are they gerunds or participles? If infinitives can be complements as in nice to meet you, could gerunds be complements as well? We sometimes say, “Nice seeing you!” And if I’m comfortable talking about something, is “talking” also a gerund or did I just create an adverb phrase with the help of a participle? After all, talking about something explains when I’m comfortable. This question will likely become a Student Stumper on my blog!

3. Their interests are best put to use when they drive my lessons. One private lesson is very different from another because each lesson plan is crafted and executed for an individual student. I especially like drawing from students’ writing; their language production tells me what to focus on. Students’ interests also guide my choice of reading material. For example, one student may practice pronunciation with the aid of an article on a golf, while another will practice with a poem by Maya Angelou. Sometimes students select material they want to work with, and then they’re even more engaged. One of my advanced students recently wrote a book review – a book of her choice, and as we read the revised version aloud, I realized I needed to get a handle on the correct pronunciation of beloved and posthumous. I was learning alongside my student! I also enjoyed hearing an unfamiliar story told through her eyes.

One thing is for certain: as long as I continue to teach, I’ll continue to learn.


Photo credit: “Compass, North, West, East, South” by Stock Snap retrieved from the public domain on Pixaby at https://pixabay.com/en/compass-north-west-east-south-923889/


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