Every Wednesday at 9:15 up to 20 students walk through the doors of Oasis English Language School ready to join in with their classes. Two teachers wait eagerly for them whilst one remains free to register new students who seem to keep coming! All is well… there is a sense of calm around the building.
Thursdays are all too often a different story! We have 4 classes and a crèche during the morning session, plus another 3 classes in the afternoon, that’s up to 70 students plus children and pushchairs to be moved through the building with each teaching space being used at least twice. It can get a little fraught.
Let me share what happened last week...
All our teachers are volunteers who sign up to take 1 or 2 classes each week. This means that each Thursday we rely on 7 teachers plus 2 crèche workers arriving for duty. Last week 2 teachers discovered very last minute that they couldn’t make it. HELP!
If this were a social context, like the student cafes we are so used to running, 10 or 20 extra students and 1 or 2 less volunteers makes little difference. In this context, we were desperately overstretched. It’s difficult to teach well when the class is double the size expected, or when there are more students than chairs, or books, or handouts.
I’m so grateful for the volunteers we have and the strong sense of commitment they have for the work they do. Each week they prepare a lesson, they text students who have failed to attend, they produce worksheets and handouts as needed …and I miss them so much when they are ill or on holiday or offered a precious opportunity they don’t want to miss. So could the answer be to recruit more? Possibly, but then there is the danger that people have given up their time and there is no class for them to teach! This is the Tipping Point. When is enough, enough?
I’m trying to plan for the next academic year. Two of the teachers who have faithfully given their time this year will definitely not be with us in the autumn, 2 more are looking for full time work. I’m beginning to feel a sense of concern! Should I plan for all the classes we have had this year? Should I plan for more because the need is still greater than the supply? Should I only plan with a reduced volunteer workforce in mind? What would you do?
I’d love you to pray as I seek wisdom in all of this… and I’d love you to write to me if you have any wisdom from your adventure in the English teaching world to share.