The best thing about teaching business executives English is that they’re usually too busy to actually attend entire lessons.
“Excuse me, I have to take this call,” the executive secretary tells me as she rushes out of the room. Later an accountant apologetically begs to end class fifteen minutes early and the Siemens executive sings “Traffic again!” at me as he arrives half an hour late for the fifteenth week in a row.
I sit at their dreary gray tables in their bland gray meeting rooms (the meeting rooms are always gray) and smile and nod. “Don’t worry about it,” I say. I’ve been daydreaming, I think. Or writing. Or reading. And you’ve been paying me for every minute. Come late, talk on the phone, don’t come at all! Because my students’ firms are paying the bills, it rarely occurs to them that they are throwing away almost a euro a minute on their phone calls and traffic jams.
When students need to leave early, they always try to break the news gently, as if I will be offended or angry with them for cutting the lesson short. “Nikki, we’re really sorry,” a delegate from one of my classes once told me gingerly. “But we have to end a half hour early today. There is an important meeting this afternoon, and we all need to be there. We’re really really sorry.” I almost laughed right in her face. Sorry?! I’m not! Have fun at your meeting! I’ll be laughing all the way to the park, where I’ll sit in the sun and drink beer with my friends, and get paid for it.
In the realm of private language schools the roles of “student” and “teacher” are becoming more and more irrelevant. This is not high school history class. There are no tests, no grades, and no detentions. You don’t need a hall pass, and no one is going to publicly humiliate you if you don’t do your homework. In part this is a positive step for education. More self-directed. More mature. But in part private language training skips over classic educational roles in favor of their capitalistic cousins. We are no longer student and teacher, we’re paying customer and service provider. And until my students notice, they’ll keep being too busy for class, and I’ll keep getting paid to take the afternoon off. It’s not a bad gig if you can stand the suits.