teaching english in China

The Very Worst English Teacher

When I decided to teach I sort of had this stereotype about teaching English in China that all the Chinese students would be super well behaved, scared to talk in class, and would memorize everything I taught them instantly.

That has not been my experience in the slightest

but I seem to have been muddling though

however somedays when I’m beating my student over the head with rolled up vocab list  ,or start speaking in Spanish just to mess with the cocky ones, I reflect on the fact that I am indeed, The VERY WORST ENGLISH TEACHER.

At least in China. There is probably a worse one in South Korea somewhere.

1. I refer to all my students as stinkers, monsters or baby communists

Anyone who knows me knows that these are terms of affection. The Chinese also understand that these are meant as affection, they just find it far more unique. My kindergarten students don’t know what I’m saying anyways and my juniors crack up when I end class by saying “I’m sick of you all, go home monsters”.

teaching english in China

I call this controlled chaos, but don’t be f00led- its just chaos

2. Sometimes I laugh at how they pronounce things

Its just really funny when they add tones to words. Also when I give out a new vocab list I always go through the list once, saying each word and having them repeat it. Its boring for everyone but it takes about a minute and they need to hear the words pronounced. There is always one student who tries to rush ahead and read off all the words before I say them. They usually slaughter the pronunciation so I like to just laugh in their faces and then make them go back and start over.

3. They swear in class

Just my juniors and as long as they do it correcty. Like you can’t point at someone and scream “shit shit shit” but if I tell you I’m going to make you write 5 paraghaphs and you have to think creatively for it, then you can say shit. I don’t let them drop F bombs because I have a huge pet peeve about people over-using that word simply because they lack a decent vocabulary. I told them only people who can express themselves completely without the word should be allowed to use it.

4. We spend a lot of time talking about our feelings

I can’t help it, I’m a trained clinical social worker, so when all my students agree that its better to have lots of money then to be happy, we are going to discuss that, in detail, for a long time. Also whenever a student tells me they feel stressed out I hear myself saying obnoxious social work things like “I’m sorry to hear that, that’s not a good feeling, can anyone else relate feeling stressed? What helps you to feel less stressed”. I run my class like a support group.

5. I don’t always pay attention

With my older students they’re supposed to listen to these recordings and then answer questions based off of it. I don’t like it because the recordings are obnoxious and boring but the school likes them and a lot of English tests use them. I never pay attention while they’re playing and so when the students don’t know an answer I have to either make them listen to it again or look up the answer.

I have no explanation for this

I have no explanation for this

6. I don’t answer a lot of personal questions.

I’m more forgiving with my teenagers and their questions are usually like “do you like vampire diaries” but I teach one adult class and when they interrupt my discussion of past tense and past perfect tense to ask if I have a boyfriend or if I want to get married….. I tell them that the question is present tense and we’re only discussing past. I will talk about almost anything if that means my students are speaking English but I draw lines around my personal life and this really annoys some of my students. Too bad because I love nothing more then a set of healthy boundaries.

7. My class discussions are offensive

Its really hard to get students to discuss things or to start a debate…. so sometimes I say things like American food is better then Chinese food, that the Vampire Diaries is a stupid show, or that the Chinese Women’s Olympic Team totally cheated in the 2008 Olympics (that’s probably true). This instantly inspires an enraged discussion and until I figure out a better way to get them talking, I will keep offending them.

teaching english in China

8. My classroom smells like coffee

I cannot handle teaching at 9am unless I’m properly caffeinated and I’m pretty sure its very strange to them that I stand there with a mug of coffee but if I don’t then I’ll be slumped against the wall, glaring and muttering incoherently. I think they like it, there is a stereotype that all westerners are addicted to coffee and can’t function without it. I’m reinforcing that belief, one mug of deliciounsess at a time.

9. I teach barefoot sometimes

I’ll admit that’s probably sort of weird, I don’t do it that often but sometimes when its raining my toms get all soggy and I hate having wet feet. Also in the carpeted rooms I’m supposed to wear my slippers but sometimes I forget and I don’t want to go back to get them so I just kick off my sandals and teach barefoot. I don’t know, I’m still a just a long-haired dirty hippie. I used to go college classes barefoot too. For all my students know all Americans could teach barefoot.

10: Their tests scores don’t matter to me

I know the test scores are important, that if they learn English that they’ll have a chance to go to school abroad, and learning a language can open doors…. but honestly they’re children. My goals are for them to realize that foreigners are not that foreign. I want to expose them to new ideas and new ways of thinking. I do work hard to help them learn new vocab and to communicate better in English but I have bigger hopes for them then a test score.

Basically even though I call them monsters and throw things at them when they talk in class ….. they’re my little monsters and definitely not the VERY WORST students.

(they’re not definitely not little saints though)

Have you taught? Is teaching barefoot really bad? Any good ideas on how else I can offend my students to make them talk?


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