The Monitor Role
Monitors are critical to the success of our customized programs. They are closer in age to the students and are essential for building a fun, stress-free social environment in which participants can practice their language skills at their own level without pressure or fear of judgement.
Remember that your group is a set of individuals, each with a different personality, thrown together during this program. Most students coming to such a program come with goodwill and a willingness to participate and try new things.
But the excitement and foreignness around them can be stressful. There may be conflicts and differences of opinion within the group, or they may all get along very well and become great friends. Your goal is the latter.
The Role of the Class Monitor
The class monitors’ main role is to maximize the English-speaking practice time of the group they are assigned to. Your group’s English practice is your primary responsibility. You are also responsible for carrying out afternoon activities with your group in a safe and timely way that creates positive, enjoyable experiences for the participants.
The students will look at you as “the leader”, with the responsibility to plan for the group. This doesn’t mean you should not consult with and respond to the group’s wishes, but you need to plan and prepare for your time with your group.
Each class has several class monitors, and most outings are planned class-by-class; in other words, other monitors and their groups will be in the vicinity of your group, but the ratio of 5-7 students to one monitor is designed to ensure that the entire group can be in close proximity to you most of the time – so the group can operate in English. It is important that the groups don’t mix too much – we want the students to be speaking English with you and each other – not speaking in their first language with a friend in a different group. Beyond what is necessary for dealing with admission and making plans or consulting on the activity, you don’t need to be interacting with other monitors very much.
Small Group Dynamics
The instructors and coordinator will try to create the monitor groups in the morning of the second day based on two criteria:
- level of English proficiency
The goal is to have a group that is homogenous in terms of proficiency so that interactions among monitors and students take place at a level that all members of the group can understand. We will attempt to group all the most outgoing personalities in a group with each other, and the quieter, shyer students will be grouped together, to give the quieter ones a chance to develop their conversation skills with their monitors and each other.
Remember that these students don’t know each other before they come to Montreal, so in the early days, they are getting to know everyone – their instructors, their homestay hosts, their classmates and their monitors. It is important that monitors make an effort to ensure they speak with everyone in their group on every day they meet. It is useful to have a checklist – it is easy to overlook a shy individual.
Your students will have varying degrees of experience living in a foreign country, and in the short time they are here, they may not have the time to develop much cultural understanding beyond a superficial ability to function in the environment. These short immersion programs are set up in a way that resembles a packaged tour, in which the participants interact very little with “real” people. Your role is in part to be a representative and interpreter of “Canadian culture” for the students.
Culture only goes so far. People are all different. You shouldn’t attribute to cultural differences that which can be explained by personality. You will soon detect a wide variety of personality types in your group as you get to know them.
Japanese culture values harmony and agreeability. The Japanese can be exquisitely sensitive to the feelings of others. Generally
speaking, the students in your group will try to avoid or do anything that makes you “lose face”. This means, if you make a suggestion for an activity, they will usually readily agree to it, whether they really want to do it or not. Almost all Yes-No questions are answered by “yes”. If you really want their opinion, present options neutrally and ask for their preferences. If that
is in a group situation, they may hesitate so as not to reveal their preference to other members of the group (to avoid conflict).
Japanese students will almost never express dissatisfaction with the event that is happening at the moment, even if they are miserable. Please try to observe your students to see if they are enjoying themselves.
Interacting with Students
You really are a professional talker. Just keep talking with your students, even if you are repeating stories you’ve already told. Fill the air with language. If the students talk, great, but if they are quiet, you talking about stuff is better than silence, because it is listening practice.
Remember that in the early days, jet lag, shyness and lack of confidence can make some students very difficult to get much out of – it can be hard work to get a meaningful conversation. But if you keep talking, even the weakest, shyest students will reward your hard work by the end of the program.
Don’t give up on the individual. The students sometimes want to rehearse what they want to say, and in a real conversation, they can’t. Sometimes, you might be surprised by a shy student who asks you a question one day – he or she may have looked up the vocabulary and practiced for days in advance – make sure you don’t give a one-word answer – follow up and give them a “reward” for trying.
Also, remember that students need to be given the chance to change their minds or change their story. Sometimes students choose a simpler, incorrect or untrue response to your question, to avoid showing that they don’t know how to answer properly, or because they misunderstood the question. Try not to be surprised the story changes later.
Please do not correct students’ errors in their second language. As a native speaker, you are a source of correct language, and someone to ask questions to, but if you start correcting, you are setting yourself up as a judge.
Some students ask to be corrected, because they perceive that as your role. But if you correct for one, you intimidate the others, who will fear you as much as they fear their teachers’ judgement.
Speak correctly and clearly, doing frequent comprehension checks, but above all, focus on communication. Getting your students to be comfortable expressing themselves is the whole point.
If you don’t understand what someone says, ask for clarification, but don’t draw attention to their error – they will certainly be conscious of their failure to communicate. Good language learners are good observers – they pick up lots from interactions, and over time, most errors disappear without overt correction.
The Role of the Instructor
The instructor will establish the class monitor groups the first morning of class. The schedule of outings is established in advance, and the instructor has a responsibility to cover related material in the course pack in advance of the outing for your class. The instructor should inform you if there are particular things the class focused on in preparation for the outing. The instructor will also ask you to carry out some homework activities in the lab when it is called for in the schedule. The instructor may ask you to meet occasionally to discuss the students, and get reports from you about their attendance and participation.
Residence monitors have a unique, intense and intimate role in programs in which students live in the residence.
Generally, there is a ratio of about 1 monitor for 10-12 students with large programs. Smaller programs have a lower ratio because minimum numbers are needed for safety concerns.
Your main responsibility is to know where the members of your group are, and help them have the best possible experience during their time on their program.