Today has been a peculiar day. I taught a student of mine privately, in the usual manner. Everything was as normal, we sat in our usual city centre cafe, I bought a coffee, the third of the day up to that point, and we conversed. We spoke about his move from place to place, his English language acquirement, he described his walk from the city centre to his new place, you know, the usual. I monitored what he said, took notes of any mistakes or any pronunciation issues and he continued, as usual, by asking me questions about specific and detailed English language queries. He’s proficient in English so now he’s learning the nitty-gritties. You know, the usual.
After two hours we walked from the area we were in and through the city centre for about 5 mintues to another cafe, a livelier coffee shop branded in franchised red and frequented by a hugely diverse and international crowd. It was, and is always, busy and noisy and today in particular there were kids fighting at a table opposite us while we sat amid a group of middle-aged Arabic ladies who seemed to be enjoying themselves, relaxing together, taking time away from their families and gossiping, perhaps.
At the end of the third hour and the lesson, my student proclaimed something that at the time I overlooked. Tiredness consumed me so, after he told me, I avoided eye contact for a second, probably selfishly, as he looked on awkwardly towards me. I couldn’t stop thinking about him this evening and I can’t help but think that I’m here to help him somehow, not only with his English needs but in other ways too. I’ve already somewhat coached him out of a lack of self-confidence in regards to his English use. He hasn’t really compared himself to any other learners and doesn’t recognise his ability, steep progression and detailed knowledge of the language, despite my continued efforts. I guess the teacher’s job is never over. At times I have felt a little protective over him. He has opened up recently and it’s a peculiar situation because I have to maintain professional, without becoming emotionally involved, but it’s not within my nature to not help, particularly after having built a bond over the past six months.
I have yet to decipher what his real issue is but he has said many different things that could allude to how he’s feeling. What struck me most was his question about the language:
“Do people say ‘Drink yourself to sleep?'”
“Yeah. That’s correct.” After an uncomfortable pause I queried: “Why?”
After a brief chat unrelated to that comment he said: “I think I’m depressed.”