Third class with The Kid. Drilled him on the Present Perfect thus:

elberry: Have you ever drunk too much beer?

Kid: Yes, I have drunk too much beer. Has your boss ever complained about you?

elberry: Yes, she has complained about me.

and then, moving on to a different use:

elberry: Last year i killed twenty of my students. This year, i have killed 7. How many people did you kill last year, and how many have you killed this year?

He looked suitably preposterated and then “I haven’t killed anyone this year.”

It turns out that he knows nothing at all about aircraft, despite wanting to be an Air Traffic Controller, so we went over some basic principles of flight and next week i’ll expostulate violently about cool shit like dynamic instability and yaw (yaw isn’t really that cool but it’s my favourite word at the moment). i was slightly surprised to find that, i suppose as a result of playing flight sims 20 years ago on my Amiga, i seem to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of aviation and death from above, though not to a Gordon McCabe level of mathematical twiddliness, since my brain doesn’t do numbers.

After the aviation we talked about Thucydides (he corrected my pronunciation), Vergil, Heraclitus. i was extremely pleased, and quite surprised, to be able to talk about philosophy and literature with one of my students – i think the last one was last summer in Kassel. The Kid seemed to enjoy it, and also i felt he was surprised to enjoy it. i thought i recognised the look on his face – it’s how i felt when i first realised “Literature” could be enjoyable and spiritually vital, rather than merely tedious & irrelevant. In my case i felt this aged about 17, when we “did” TS Eliot at school. That was a faint stirring; i returned to Eliot a couple of years later, and found him much more powerful then, perhaps because i always seem most open when i learn for myself, without any living guide.

After the lesson i felt strangely energised, as if i had murdered the student with my bare hands. i even chuckled a little, and moaned ‘Gute Nacht’ from Winterreise, cheerfully. It made me realise just how routine & unvital are most of my lessons; and how insubstantial & unsatisfying it is, to teach English to the Bosche. In Munich at least, Jerry usually has pretty competent English so it’s hard to really teach anything; their mistakes are by then largely ingrained, the students uninterested in any radical improvement, and so all i do is chat, introduce new vocab, correct grammar (this rarely makes any difference). With low-level groups i do feel i impart something, am doing something real, but low-level groups are also much much more draining – i could never teach these groups for more than a few hours a week.

i long to do a real job. i don’t mean working in McDonald’s or cleaning toilets. But something more substantial than just talking with people and correcting their grammar to no avail. Alas i have no real expertise or knowledge, there seems nothing i could do. But sometimes longing can coerce a future shape in the present; it can invite events.

Advertisements