During my time at Mishima NOVA, I got to teach some really memorable students. This is about The Twins, who usually came for lessons on one of my days off.
Many students come for lessons on the same days every week. My usual days off were Sunday and Monday, so I rarely got to teach students who would only come on those days. One particular Monday I was working on a shift swap, and noticed that I had a lesson with two students with the name family name. When I asked about it, the other teachers told me that I had to teach “The Twins”.
The Twins are identical 14 year old twin girls who, like many of the younger students, were only taking English lessons because their parents forced them. They were notoriously difficult to teach, with my supervisor warning me that it wasn’t uncommon for them to both stop talking a few minutes into the lesson, turning the remainder of the 40 minutes into an uncomfortable staring contest. To make matters more challenging, they were both in the second lowest level and had been for some time.
If I had been a less experienced teacher I probably would have entered the classroom with an impending feeling of dread. In this case I decided to challenge myself; I was going to see if I could get The Twins to talk.
I walked into the lesson, put my student files down on the table, and introduced myself with a big friendly smile. I asked Twin 1 her name and she responded. I asked Twin 2 her name and she responded as well. I told them I was from Canada and I lived in Numazu (modeling the response I wanted from The Twins). I asked Twin 1 where she lived, and she said Mishima. I then asked Twin 2, who naturally also answered Mishima. I pretended to be surprised that they both lived in the same city.
I then told The Twins that I was an English Teacher and asked what they did. This time I started with Twin 2 who said she was a junior high school student. Twin 1 gave the same answer. I faked surprise again. My fake surprise increased when they told me that they went to the same school. I kept doing this for a few more minutes until Twin 2, who wasn’t sure if I was actually clueless, pointed at Twin 1 and said “she is my sister”.
Score one for the teacher! I just got unprompted dialogue in English from one of the school’s most difficult students!
I don’t think they really knew what was going on, but they did keep talking and I managed to get a decent lesson out of both of them. I proudly returned to the teachers room to describe my accomplishment.
In case you’re wondering, acting clueless was not something that I learned in my 3 days of on the job training when I became an English teacher; that was all me 🙂
(Author’s note) I did get a few more successful lessons with the twins after this, with only brief staring contests.