12 October, 2012

What a week

A ridiculous rollercoaster, but at least we got off the ride without vomiting.

We have a main teacher who's Russian (and great), plus a second teacher who's a native Finn, and I'm sure she must be one of the most intelligent teachers I've ever had. I say "must be" because there is no way to know for sure apart from the fact that I don't understand 99% of what she says.

Last week (and the week before) I practically lost my voice saying "slow down" and "we don't understand" and "please speak more simply". Over and over again. Alright, I didn't come close to losing my voice, but I sure said those things so many times that she should have heard me. To no avail. I know that my comprehension is poor, but in this class I'm somewhere near the top and I happened to know that another 16 people in the class didn't understand her. (Lunchtime discussions are great.)

Finally on Tuesday she began revising something that we hadn't understood the first time, didn't understand the second time, and she managed to confuse half the class and send people into panic mode over finding their own workplace practice position. (Mention "writing up your CVs" and that people have to go to work soon, and students "wtf" and "huh" quite a bit.) I turned around and loudly asked who understood. Nobody. I started simplifying it based on my memories of last year's class mentioning it. The smart guy asked me to use English because he didn't even understand the basics in Finnish.

And once he understood what she had been talking about over and over that day, he exploded. "Half an hour! Half an hour we have been discussing this, and we don't even need it! This is high school work! We have all had jobs, we are not children, we know how to write our CVs! Why? Why? (He repeated the Finnish word for comprehensive school, which doesn't even apply to immigrants, the Finnish word for compulsory army conscription, which doesn't even apply to immigrants, and the Finnish word for being able to speak Finnish fluently, which doesn't even apply to us.) Why we need these words? How this help us learn Finnish?"

I felt sorry for the teacher, because on a personal level, I like her a lot. And she has to teach what she's told, because the government makes the rules. But she also has to teach so that we understand, and she wasn't.

She wisely put the jobsearch-talk away and gave us a pamphlet on the health benefits of milk. And then, unbelievably, she talked for an hour in such ridiculous complexity that I'm not sure anyone understood a thing. We are people still struggling to form sentences about what we did on our weekends, and faced with information on complex carbohydrates, saturated fat's effect on blood cholesterol levels and the natural food sources of the chemical Selenium, it was an exercise in futility. I'd say half the class don't even understand those things in their native languages.

At the end she tried to tell us it was good practice. I disagreed, loudly. She tried to tell me that I understood the idea and it was good to learn new words. I explained that the text was far too difficult, that if there had been 20 new words perhaps it would be ok, but 100 is too many and that on our own it would have taken four hours to look up every word in the dictionary to understand.

She kinda went quiet as classmates nodded.

The next day she turned up with a far easier exercise and spoke noticeably slower and more simply. I probably hurt her feelings, but there are only so many times that a whole classroom should be expected to endure a lesson which wastes their time, regardless of the fact we HAD to attend.

But I gave her feedback, that I had spoken with others at lunch and people could now understand her, and I thanked her for slowing down.

And then we had the third teacher today. I like her too, because she's also Russian, so she knows how to speak simply to other immigrants. At the end of the day I thanked her for being a teacher who speaks slowly so that we understand. She commented that sometimes she doesn't understand native Finn teacher herself.

So it's not just students having problems understanding native Finn teacher. Hallelujah, there is a Dog.