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Expectations of a foreign English teacher

Popularity 2Viewed 1768 times 2016-1-10 12:55 |System category:Life| Foreign, English, Teachers

I love teaching English in China!  Both my high school and college students are wonderful people.  I love them all! I also tutor adult students in my home, not for a fee, just for fun.  I have met so many kind, interesting and loving people through teaching.

However, I get the impression that most of my students think, at first, that if they have a native English-speaking teacher, learning English will "magically" be fast and easy.  I think some students are a little disappointed that learning English continues to be a  lot of hard work, even with a foreign English teacher.  The effort still comes mostly from the student and not the teacher. 

In the college classroom I concentrate primarily on oral English. However, good oral English depends on good grammar and a broad vocabulary so I touch on all areas, even though my Chinese colleagues do a very good job of teaching grammar and vocab.  I grew up in the mid-west area of the US and arguably my pronunciation is pretty standard, so I think it does help my student to use me for listening practice and I record passages and book chapters for them to listen to.  For the students I tutor at home, we cover everything, sometimes beginning at ABC.

Of course the difficult part in my college classroom is to get students to participate.  Getting my students to be comfortable enough to ask questions, even challenge me in certain areas, has been very difficult.  The prevailing attitude is that, as the teacher, I  know exactly what they need to study and I will provide all the instruction the students need.  All they need to do is listen.  Of course that is far from the truth.  My students often ask me, "How do I improve my oral English?"  Sometimes they add the word  "quickly" to that question.  I always tell them "speak and listen" especially with native English speakers, or some variation of that answer.  However, most of my students are loathe to spend time on listening practice and as I have already said, getting them to spontaneously or voluntarily speak in class has been a struggle.

Some of the students at my college with be best English language skills are not English majors.  They study other subjects, Animal Science, Electronics, Computer Science, etc. but they love English and it shows.  They study on their own time, they seek out English speakers to practice with, they come to my home and chat.  I wish I could motivate all my English students to follow that example.  Of course not all English majors love to study English.  Some are English majors because of parental pressure or lack of other options.  Their hearts are not really in their studies.

All that being said, I still love teaching English here and I love my students, but I can't really live up to all their expectations.

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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Reply Report BlondeAmber 2016-1-19 19:39
College students have to take some responsibility in learning themselves, they can not put their burden on you or blame you if they don't practice.
Reply Report Donald_Trump 2016-1-19 21:14
If your University students don't much participate in your classroom activities, maybe you're boring them or out of touch with their generation. And if you're over 40 years old or not attractive, it may be a little difficult to grasp their generation, but it can indeed be done!
Try throwing humor into the mix, keep a smile, and make jokes when YOU make mistakes (on purpose), they really dig on that and it encourages them to feel more comfortable about their own mistakes. IF IT'S NOT HUMOROUS, IT'S BORING...

You said "as the teacher, I  know exactly what they need to study". GREAT, now you know exactly where you need to teach, You need to teach the "culture of English", leave grammar to those Chinese grammar&vocabulary teachers. Have fun with them, keep laughter going, is all you seem to be missing out on, and its not helping them any, and it makes your workday feel like a dull one.

NEVER tell them you love them, it makes you lose their respect. They don't know you anymore than you know them. When they graduate, you'll never hear from them again. So keep it fun, free and ethical, them and you are just ships passing in the night.

AND ALL THOSE TEACHING BOOKS ARE A FRICKING JOKE, THROW THEM OUT THE WINDOW, THEYRE USLESS. LET YOURSELF BE THE BOOK. CANT MAKE A CLASS-PLAN EXCITING FROM THEIR CHINESE ENGLISH BOOKS.
ONLY DULL TEACHERS USE THE BOOK FOR ORAL ENGLISH...
Reply Report HenLaoLaoShi 2016-1-20 13:12
Thanks, I appreciated the advice.  I may have mis-typed one thing.  I meant to say, my students "think" that as the teacher I must always know exactly what to teach them.  However, that is not the case.

Yes, I am over 40 and NOT attractive, so keeping them interested is a challenge.  Again, thanks for the advice!
Reply Report Donald_Trump 2016-1-20 14:10
HenLaoLaoShi: Thanks, I appreciated the advice.  I may have mis-typed one thing.  I meant to say, my students "think" that as the teacher I must always kn ...
I tried University oral English for 2 semesters back in 2009. The mainland just wasn't for me, the Beijing city and Guangdong province lifestyle was horrible, so I bailed out of the mainland and moved to ********.

I know what you're going through, it isn't easy to be an entertainer. Students you teach for private lessons are much more involved than School students.

For your Colleges/University classes, try humor, and a lot of role-plays(like acting).

Also, put them in groups (4 to 6 students per group)and let them choose which classmates to have in their group and let them choose a creative team name. It gives them competition and comforts them with other classmates than doing it alone. Plus makes your job easier and their class more fun.
You can give their groups role-play homework which makes your job easier on the class planning. You want to focus on getting them to talk.

If the book is more of a reading and listening, toss it, and tell them you feel its useless and "we will be the book", they dig on that too.
Reply Report HenLaoLaoShi 2016-1-21 13:44
I don't think I would enjoy the Beijing lifestyle either.  I am in a rural part of southern Sichuan.  As the students say, this college "is not very famous".  It is really not anyone's first choice school, but the kids seem motivated for the most part.  I had to give up my introvert ways when I started teaching, but I'm still not too good at making things fun.  I'll have to think about the competition aspect.  I already have them divided into groups for projects.

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  • An old man struggling with the language 2016-1-23 09:27

    HenLaoLaoShi: Yes, I know I was quite naive.  And the there is a Chinese saying equivalent to "You're never to old to learn"  Of course I can't remember i ...
    Don't worry,just take it easy.

    "I'm a slow walker but I never go backwards," that's one of my mottoes.

  • Expectations of a foreign English teacher 2016-1-21 13:44

    I don't think I would enjoy the Beijing lifestyle either.  I am in a rural part of southern Sichuan.  As the students say, this college "is not very famous".  It is really not anyone's first choice school, but the kids seem motivated for the most part.  I had to give up my introvert ways when I started teaching, but I'm still not too good at making things fun.  I'll have to think about the competition aspect.  I already have them divided into groups for projects.

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