Hot Dog Delight

The Worst.

Posted on: December 16, 2009

Last week I had a great day.  My lessons went smoothly and my students were well-behaved, for the most part.  It made me feel proud to be a teacher.  I felt like I was on top of the world.

Then, as quickly as the day came, it soon left.  And I was greeted with an awful day.  One of the worst.  It was Monday.

Mondays are perhaps my most dreaded day of teaching.  Not only is it Monday, and I’m sad that the weekend is over, but I have what I consider my worst classes on Monday.

I start the morning with the class that wrote the apology notes.  The students have reverted back to their chatty selves.  While there are good students in the class, I am distracted by the talkers, and starting the week off with them isn’t something I look forward to.  I ran into the head teacher the other day and she asked me how her class was doing.  I told her they were quite talkative recently, and they don’t really like to listen when I talk.  She told me that the students are just excited, and they tell her that they love my class, but that she will talk to them about being good in oral English.  I felt a little awkward after she told me that, since I had just told her students that morning that even though I would be showing the rest of my classes a movie the following week, I wouldn’t be showing them a movie because most of them were too talkative, noisy, and did not listen.

Regardless, I don’t quite buy the whole being excited for oral English class excuse, which is something I get a lot.  Some of my students definitely have no interest in learning or practicing their English, and those are definitely the chatty ones.  I’m also not sure that being unable to contain excitement over learning new verbs and adjectives is really the reason why any of them can’t keep quiet for 40 minutes.  It would be easy to remove those students, the chatty ones who like to misbehave, but it’s hard to see which ones are actually talking.  There’s usually a general murmur in the class, and there are just so many students I can’t always determine which students are the perpetrators.

I did give that class a chance this week and told them that if they were all quiet for 5 minutes, I would show them the movie.  But they had to all be quiet.  If even one of them said a word, we wouldn’t watch the movie.  I said this in English and had a child translate in Chinese to make sure everyone understood.  Students were eager to start the clock.  I timed them, and after 1 minute, a student started talking and passing a note to another student.  After 1 minute.

Anyway, back to Monday’s schedule.  After the apology note class, I have a decent class.  They are fairly well-behaved so time usually passes quickly.  Then on to lunch.  After lunch, I have 2 of my worst classes, and then I end the day with a well-behaved class.

My worst classes…are the bane of my existence as a teacher.  They happen to be two of the top performing classes of the grade.  They are classes 2 and 4.  Kids in the lower-numbered classes (class 1, 2, 3, etc.) have better grades than students in the higher-numbered classes (class 20, 19, 18, etc.).  Classes are determined by test grades — math and science grades are of higher importance than English.  So while the students in class 2 and 4 may be smart when it comes to math and science, many of them could care less about learning English.  They’re quite chatty, obnoxious, bratty, and entitled.  They are accustomed to my rants and raves by this point.

I probably hit rock bottom as a teacher when I completely stopped teaching class 2 this week.  I wrote on the board, “I will listen to my teacher.  I will respect my teacher.  I will be good in class.” and I told students to write each sentence 50 times.  If students didn’t write each sentence 50 times in their notebooks, I wouldn’t let them in class the following week.  I even told them that the kids who weren’t in class had to do the assignment if they wanted to be let into class next week.  Children found this unfair.  And I guess it is unfair.  But I wanted the class, as a whole, to realize the error of their ways.  So I told everyone to do it, even though not everyone deserved to be punished.  I told the students that while they were writing each sentence, they should be thinking, really thinking about how they shouldn’t waste the oral English teacher’s time anymore, how important oral English really was.  I said I wanted everyone to think about it since I was tired of coming to class and having students talk through it.  I told them they were one of my worst classes.

I was fed up with the smirks, the laughs as I tried to lecture them about the importance of listening and being quiet.  Granted, it’s not fun being lectured.  I know this.  But I wanted them to at least take what I was saying to heart.  I wanted them to take it seriously and realize that being a teacher is hard.  And that I didn’t have to be there.  And that they were lucky they even had a foreign teacher to teach them oral English.  But I got laughs from several students instead, and that was more than enough to push me over the edge.

I’m sure certain students will rebel, and I will have to assert my authority again.  It is quite authoritarian, what I’m doing.  But Chinese students are used to such approaches.  It’s nothing new for them.  Most get it from their other teachers.  It doesn’t make it any more okay, but it does make it more acceptable to do while I’m in China.  One of the students came up to me after class and told me she was sad that they were naughty (they use the word ‘naughty’ to refer to misbehaving in class).  I told her I was even more sad!  She said that they are used to me yelling at them since I do it every week, but next week, I should try something different, a new approach.  She wanted to learn English and she told me I should just remove all the troublemakers.  I told her okay, but I would need her help in recording names and kicking students out.  I said I would be better next week and actually teach them something.

A part of me wishes I could take it back, and re-do the class.  But what’s done is done, and I have to live with my actions, as much as they make me cringe when I think about them.  I’ve become that teacher, the one that goes off on rants and commands respect!  Ugh.  I can only take solace in the face that next week is a new class, it will be a new day, and I can start clean.  I will be better.


1 Response to "The Worst."

heyo– was facebooking around and saw a link to this. anyway i know *exactly* what you’re talking about, the general murmur that just drives you over the edge and it’s so hard to pin down any one student talking! my rock bottom moment was when i just flat out left a class. i just walked out, i couldnt take it anymore. i’ve also made a class write me letters on how they can be better students and follow the rules. not enjoyable for anyone involved.

anyway if you ever figure out what to do quiet the murmur, let me know!


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