Monday, 14 March 2011

Class routes

If you use Gmail, you probably prefer salty to sweet snacks.

Should you be a Yahoo mailer, you probably lounge around your home in pyjamas.

And if you use AOL, there's a good chance that you're overweight, at least according to a fascinating report on Hunch blog.

Your email address apparently says a lot more about you than where you can be contacted.

The design guru, Swiss Miss, for example, admitted that she refused to consider employing a  lawyer because he had an AOL address and therefore lived in 'a different solar system' to her.

All of which led me to wonder what other things influence learners' opinions of us before we've even met, or, as is the case with that lawyer, not met.

Before a learner gets to me, and I get the chance to deter them personally, they have to go through a number of other potentially alienating hoops.

First up are the adverts and brochures.

The big chains produce big chain leaflets - professional and glossy, but impersonal and so ubiquitous as to make it feel like they carpet-bomb, and are careless.

Some of the small independents, on the other hand, seem to outsource their advertising to the local kindergarten which, while it has a certain artless charm, also conveys a feeling of amateurishness.

Next up, as Andrew Wright pointed out in last week's BESIG webinar, is the story the school building tells.

A crumbling structure with damp, grey walls and hard chairs, a big, clean, white space with bean-bags, or a nest of oak-panelled, plush-carpeted offices in a country house all offer the learner potentially different ideas about their learning experience.

Once the learner is through the door, they have to meet the staff - usually at least a receptionist and a Director of Studies.

While the former may have great secretarial skills and the latter may have great managerial talents, do they excel with people?

The DoS, of course, will probably administer some kind of placement test, a test which can be so ridiculously easy or hard as to dramatically inflate or deflate the learner's understanding of their true ability.

This is piled on top of a whole heap of expectations about learning, and language-learning in particular, that the learner will have amassed over their years at school and university.

This will usually include some idea about the 'proper' way to do things.

And then they meet you.

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