How long should a student stay with the same teacher? That’s a question quite often asked.
Answers may vary – some schools rotate teachers at the end of a stage/level. Others change teachers month. There are schools which rotate teachers every class (which is a strategy to keep students attached to the school not to a particular teacher, given the high turnover in the industry).
My wife started learning English at a language school years ago, which rotated teachers at the end of every stage, but she had a teacher – Wallace* – who had noticed that students were not reaching higher levels at the expected pace. So Wallace tried an experiment staying with the same group of students from beginner to advanced in order to identify where the weakest link was. When reaching the Advanced level -C1 – students were more confident in language production and more fluent. But the experiment was inconclusive whether the positive outcome was due to the same teacher or whether Wallace was a better teacher than average, or the rotation made students fluctuate and slide back in their progress.
A few weeks ago, my Student Rosie* told me of a dream she’d had that I was in her bedroom answering phone calls on her landline and had asked her not to disturb me. What would have triggered such a bizarre dream?
Well, the night before she’d been talking to her mother saying she’d have to get up a little earlier the next day because she had English class. Her mother asked her if she was still having lessons with that teacher who wore glasses and had a captivating smile (author’s imagination) and Rosie* nodded. Her mother asked how long she’d been having classes with me and she said “nearly 10 years maybe”.
Then I told her that it would be around 19-20 years – on and off of course. I moved to the US for a period and then to Ireland. But it made me wonder what would make someone pay a teacher almost long enough for the latter’s retirement.
For many years she was what we would call a regular student – using textbooks, doing or trying to do homework, etc. But in recent years, we’ve been basically having “communication-based” lessons, sometimes throwing in some work-related material or presentation she would have to go through.
She has achieved a fluent advanced English level – which does not eliminate mistakes. She still confuses he/she and his/her/your. Sometimes, tenses are a nightmare, but she feels perfectly capable of carrying on a meeting or phone conference, or making a presentation.
Now, am I taking advantage of a situation and should tell her to terminate her classes? or is she still benefiting from those classes?
After a serious and hard analysis, I came to the latter conclusion. Both psychologically and linguistically she still can improve and she does, although slowly and haphazardly.
Sure, most people will benefit from a 3-5 year language program, but the same way that some professionals seek continuous improvement so some language learners require and can afford long-term language assistance.
* all names have been changed to prevent any legal issues.