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Goals are dreams with deadlines

All of our students come to English B'Yachad with the intention of improving English to positively impact their future. A March 2021 HaAretz article entitled, “Israel's Schools Are Flunking English, and Startup Nation Is Paying the Price” reported that although “English is taught in schools from second grade…people end up incapable of carrying on a conversation.”

This gap between school and book learning and actually being able to confidently speak in English is exactly where you bring so much value to your student.

Your students almost unanimously reveal that despite prior English studies, they feel uncomfortable speaking English, even those students with higher levels of English recognize the importance of building confidence and skills. The fact is that most EBY students have few to no English speakers in their social networks with whom to practice English, even informally. This lack of confidence in English means individuals feel unprepared for high-stake situations such as interviewing for jobs in English, making presentations in English, or participating in business meetings conducted in English.

Your job: increase your students' confidence to speak in English, improve fluency, and build other English language skills.

But how do you know exactly what your particular student's needs are? How can you work together to set goals? How do you navigate changing goals during the course of your work together? And how do you know if you are meeting the targets you've discussed?

We suggest that you discuss and agree upon some general goals together (without getting too granular) while remaining flexible as those goals and needs change. Then check in with your student regularly to ask what they need or want.

Our February 12 Tutor Talks discussion helped to concretize some strategies and approaches around goal setting and checking in. This is but the tip of the iceberg on this subject, but as always, I hope that this short recap of the discussion will inform your work.

What was clear to me as I listened to the wisdom that several tutors shared, stay flexible. Ask questions. Flow with the needs of your students as needs emerge or change.

Shari Stern shared "try to be very concrete." If your student shares a general goal such as, "I want to increase confidence in speaking English," probe a bit to help the student concretize that statement. Shari asks, "How will you know when you’ll feel more confident?"

Shari asks her student to identify anything specific in English that she wants to work on. That student realized she was using a lot of fillers such as the Israeli equivalent of ummmm in her speech. Shari observed that the student didn't even realize her improvement in meeting that specific goal until they went back and reviewed the goal later in their working relationship!

Take a few different approaches to figuring out what the student wants to achieve and getting a sense of where your student believes he or she is at present. Sometimes she asks her student to rank him/herself on a scale of 1-10 in terms of how confident the student feels today. And where on the same scale do you want to be when we finish working on this issue together?

Shari always provides immediate positive feedback in her interactions with her student, such as, "This might be our first session together and look, we're already communicating together in English!!!"

Focusing on specifics can help you and your student identify small, but very meaningful, changes and improvements.

Many of you report that your students' goals at first focus on conversational fluency. Then as you and your student get to know each other better, and as students' circumstances change (e.g. completing a training program), additional needs may surface. While the first few sessions may focus on gaining confidence to speak more freely in English, later sessions may focus on practical tools such as practicing for English interviews and/or writing work emails. Checking in on earlier goals, and communicating about emerging needs are key strategies tutors suggest.

Bottom line - your students have joined English B'Yachad because each wants to improve in English. Your role as a mentor is to facilitate that improvement with the safe and supportive learning environment you create together.

I'd love to hear back from you on what you do to establish goals and plan sessions to enhance your student's English. Respond to this blog, drop me an email or pick up the phone!

And if you have ideas on how we can foster more support on this topic for our tutor community, please share that too.

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