I recently posted on Facebook a comment about a student in class here in China. It was nothing very unusual, just the issue all of the teachers here face every day – students doing the homework from other teachers in their class. What made this a little different, and a little amusing, was that the student, instead of trying to hide it, as they usually do, had actually had the cheek to ask me to help him.
A trivial anecdote to be sure but that's what Facebook is for.
It drew a response from an acquaintance who deserves a public acknowledgement of his contribution. He is an unfailing source of inspirational input who never lets his total lack of knowledge on a subject prevent him giving you
his opinion the facts. With that in mind,
of course I don't feel even slightly insulted by his opening remark
that the student clearly finds the other teacher's work more engaging
than mine. Why would I? After all, if he suggests that I am not a
good teacher, who am I to argue?. He has never seen me teach but why
should that matter?
Similarly there is, to my mind, absolutely no hint of passive aggression in his assertion that I must find it “quite difficult to make language teaching interesting”. My teaching qualifications and my years of experience weigh very poorly in the balance when compared to his deductive reasoning skills and his conclusion based on a single paragraph about slightly amusing incident.
Now I don't wish to seem ungrateful, after all I value his input every bit as much as everyone else he interacts with does, but I would like to expand on it a little.
It's clear that the Chinese school day which is, at my school anyway, eleven and a half hours long followed by a minimum of two hours home work each night (and six days a week) will have no influence at all on whether the kids try to do their homework in class time or not. The merest suggestion is ludicrous. If the class is interesting they will be too absorbed to do anything other than listen, won't they?
And if I gave homework (which I am not allowed to do) I am sure that the other teachers would be so interesting that there would be no temptation at all for the students to try to do it in their lessons. In fact it would probably be so dull that they wouldn't do it at all. And who could blame them?
Later he goes on to suggest that as my classes are intended to focus on speaking and listening I could make it a rule that only English is to be spoken in class. It is brilliant in its simplicity. I wonder why I never thought of it. Get them to speak in English. It's quite breathtaking. Of course there would be no difficulty at all in a class of eighty in making sure that everyone speaking at once is speaking English. I shall certainly have to try that.
I might also think of some more rules – don't carve your names in the desk, don't read comics in class, don't set fire to the bookcase, don't play cards. Why this stuff is revolutionary. I must remember to tell the Chinese teachers about it. I'm sure they have never even considered it. I know I haven't.
His support for my difficulty is well expressed when he goes on to say that he “can appreciate the challenge with a class of that size”. Of course he has never tried to teach a class of eighty eleven-year-olds but his theorising is, as always, welcome input.
So to summarise, I am inexpressibly grateful for these invaluable suggestions. As it will take me some time to implement all of this groundbreaking stuff though, I'd appreciate it if there were no more suggestions – at least for the time being.