Do adult students cry?

You might think that only children sometimes happen to shed a tear in front of their teachers and other classmates but we sometimes forget that adults too, have their emotional moments and it might as well happen during an English lesson. Below I’d like to share with you 2 situations when I, as an English teacher personally have seen my students crying, and sometimes I cried too!

Something serious happened and he just found out about it during the lesson.

Using mobile phone during lessons.

Usually using mobile phones is forbidden in the classroom but sometimes I make an exception for my “businessmen” students or when someone is expecting an important call (by a “businessman” student I mean people who work a lot using their mobiles and have to be available all the time for some important business calls).

But Mr James…

Well, once, having a lesson with one of them, Mr. James (let’s pretend it was his real surname) asked me if he could take a phone call.

Me: “Of course you can, no problem about it”.

It looked like it was going to be a longer call so, because I didn’t want to eavesdrop on a private conversation, I came out of the room to get us some water to drink. After 10 minutes I could still hear Mr. James speaking and I noticed his voice was getting more emotional and quite angry too and suddenly

… he burst out crying!

“Oh dear, what’s just happened?” – I wondered.

I was really concerned, I came into the room to check if he was ok and he kept weeping, he only gave me a sign to leave him alone for a moment so I left again. All the other students and teachers in the school could hear him and we all grew worried and sorry for Mr. James and we really didn’t know what to do in an unprecedented situation like this one.

After some minutes, he slowly started to calm down.

I came into the classroom and the most gently as I could, asked him if he was all right. He told me he was having some financial problems and that someone had swindled him out of money. Wow, that was a really delicate matter. I tried my best to give my student some comfort. He decided he wanted to continue the lesson and so we did. I can’t tell you how bad I felt for him then.

…and solving the problem

The next time he came to the lesson, he told me he had resolved the problem and everything was ok again. What a relief that was!

He thought: “I’m not good enough. I will never improve my English”

Marco was my new student.

Marco was about 28 years old then. He was a new student of mine. He’d just been coming to the group lessons for about 6 months or so. At the beginning he seemed shy and serious but soon we all discovered a friendly and witty young guy who easily settled in the group of other adult students. It was quite a lighthearted kind of English course we had. We mainly had conversation lessons and shared a lot of funny and sometimes personal stories and experiences. Marco was the one who was prepared for every lesson and always had an interesting or hilarious anecdote in English to tell. We all loved his sense of humor and his natural gift for storytelling.

Marco had to prepare for an important exam.

As the course he attended was only conversations in English, we also had some individual lessons to work on his grammar and writing skills because he was going to take a C1 level English exam. For many students the “writing” part of the exam is the one which scares them most. And this was the case for Marco. It was during one of the individual lessons when I asked Marco to read out his homework that was to write an essay in English on a given topic.

He didn’t want to read his homework…

He opened his laptop where he had his essay written but I saw him quite hesitant to read it. He said right away that it was badly written, and maybe it wasn’t even worth checking.

I said “Hey, if there are any errors, we’re here to correct them and help you prepare for the exam. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect”.

Reluctantly, Marco started reading and at some point his voice faltered and he stopped speaking.

He had tears in his eyes.

He excused himself and said he had to take a walk outside. I was puzzled and I immediately rushed to my colleague to tell her what had happened.

I was worried it was my fault!

Maybe I did something to make him feel that way. Maybe I was pushing too much, maybe I shouldn’t have insisted on him reading that essay. My student left and I was having a small panic attack. I had to calm myself down, eat a cube of sugar and drink some cold water.

Laughing it off.

Ok, after about 10 minutes Marco came back. We talked, we smiled, we tried to laugh it off. We went on with the lesson. This episode didn’t happen again and Marco passed his exam with flying colours as I knew he would.
The lesson I learnt after this episode is that sometimes behind an apparently outgoing and confident person there might be some insecurities and everyone gets emotional sometimes.