Journal: Update and Ponderance

I’m finding it difficult to maintain the homework blog, my other commitments, and this blog too!  Sorry!

The class has undergone some changes since I last surfaced.  One is that our room changed.  Instead of having a medium-sized room with a wall of windows, we have a smallish room with no windows and not enough electric lights.  I like to think of it as The Cave, but it’s not horrible, just a small step backward.  Another change is in our schedule.  We’d been having computer time daily, but the class decided to have longer computer sessions twice a week instead.  So far it’s working out well!

Class size has been hovering in the high teens, except that Monday we had 21, which is a lot for The Cave. 

One issue that’s thus far been a non-issue is our textbook.  It’s actually quite good, but it’s geared for English as a Foreign Language, not English as a Second Language (EFL, not ESL).  The difference is that EFL is for people who are in their own, non-English-speaking countries, learning English in classes.  ESL is for people who are in English-speaking countries, learning English both in class and in their life through necessity. 

One general difference between the two groups is often (but not always) income.  Think about it: who has more plentiful opportunities to earn good money, someone who speaks the dominant language of the country he/she’s in, or someone who is just learning to do so?  In other words, ESL students are (generally) less well-off than EFL students.

This in turn impacts the units present in textbooks.  Right now we’re in a unit about vacations.  This is soon to be followed by a unit on transportation (plane, ship, train, rental car, limo) followed by a unit on shopping.  My students are not all living in poverty by any means.  Many of them clearly have some disposable income.  But many of them simply do not have the means to choose between an African safari and a cruise in their normal, everyday lives.  I feel a little awkward harping on spending (lots of) money for three units in a row.  It seems particularly ironic since there’s a distinct absence of a work-related unit.

Now thank goodness my program cheerfully gives us the freedom to modify and to write our own unit tests.  In this way, I have some flexibility regarding what to focus on within the units.  At risk of looking a gift horse in the mouth, I can’t help but notice that the responsibility is falling on me to donate (a lot of) my time to fix the textbook.  This is not a case of my program being oblivious.  It’s a case of scarcity and all of us doing our very best with what we have.  I think we do a great job.

But why is this level of scarcity acceptable to our students, our government, and our society?

I’m happy to go along with it out of respect to my students and my employers.  I’m improving my own skills in the process.  Looking at a macro level, though, I worry that all of us doing exactly what I’m doing are in a way perpetuating the scarcity.

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