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As we have discussed in Teaching English as a second language at Acadsoc, things to know ahead (Part 1), you should have had a definite clue on what’s going on with your students and how to what caused some disharmony situation in your class.
The golden principle of an online English teacher is: Put yourself in student’s shoes. However, without knowing the cause of all your students’ behaviours, this saying is meaningless and useless. If you try to motivate or urge the student to do something in a way that you suppose to work, the result will always make you disappointed and frustrated.
Based on an explicit recognition of Chinese education, now, there is a possibility you may solve these problems more effectively and efficiently:
A qualified online English teacher shall be able to recognise that your student is getting bored in your class. If you never be aware of so, you do not have to finish this sector. Even the top tutor in Acadsoc cannot successfully raise the interest of any student in just one try.
1. How to tell: If you ask the student a question and receive no answers for more than 1 minute, make your judgement. The student keeps staring at the camera and looks like he/she is thinking about the answer, that is a sign of shyness. But when you are waiting for an answer, the student keeps looking somewhere else (i.e. looking at his/her toys), making faces, talking to others in Chinese, or lying down on the coach, definitely, he/she feels so bored of your class.
Once you can tell for sure, the student is getting bored listening to you, what is next? You shall figure out the reason why. Ask the student in Chinese: Are you sleepy（你觉得很困吗？）? Do you have schooling or afterschool tutoring today（你今天是不是还有别的课）? What did you do an hour ago（你一个小时之前在做什么）?Have you eaten your breakfast/lunch/dinner(你吃了吗)?
If the kid remains silent, you can ask these questions to his/her parents.
2. Once you have an answer to this question, you will be able to see if it is the physical or mental tiredness that makes the student distracted.
If so, the best option for you is to make the student relieve in your class instead of extending his/her suffering. A student in a wrong mental/physical state can hardly concentrate on studying. Tell the student you are not here to pour anything else into his/her brain or supervise him/her for the parents but just to make friends. You’d better make a breakthrough from something you know about the student, e.g. to show your companion and disapproval of continuous taking long-hour after-school tutoring, concern on his/her hobby or let the student confide to you what makes him/her worried and crazy recently. Like a psychologist, gradually, slowly and carefully make the student express himself/herself, even in Chinese. If you just keep pushing, the situation will be even worse than you can imagine. Will the parents be crazy about you or claim that you are unprofessional? Maybe, but to be honest, the cost of therapy in China per hour is far more than the price of your course.
3. If the kid is in quite a good state at the moment, energetic without heavy burden on his/her shoulder, then you shall review your teaching method.
If you just keep talking and talking, and not even let the student have a chance to engage, there is no difference between you and other annoying teachers in his/her school. The best rhythm will be: 2-1, means 2 sentences from you and then followed by 1 sentence from the student, even it is just a ‘yes’ as an answer. Use more questions than declarative sentences to let the student say something.
If you have no emotion shown on your face or from your tone, of course, you can’t expect the student to show you their engagement and passion. Some teachers may figure they are shy or it is their characteristic to stay cold, well, shyness can be overcome sooner or later; But if it is your character, then we are sorry to inform that you are unsuitable for this position as a teacher. Maybe you’d better work with a non-human substance such as goods and codes.
If you keep using long sentences, well, the student will quickly get bored as well. As Acadsoc suggested, to limit every of your sentence into a word count of 10. It is unnecessary to try to explain everything to your students in one shot. Please take it slow and easy, one by one. Since we all know, comprehension is the foundation of your class.
And finally, not to use very uncommon words or complicated expressions. Just imagine, will you use them in your daily life when talking to your friends, kids, and family? No, you won’t. It must be oral, easy to type in cell phone and easy to get by others.
4. If possible, try to use TPR (Total Physical Response), small props and toys in your class, but those are advanced methods based on process 1, 2 and 3. Without the support of your careful observation, calm and proper strategy, even TPR cannot save your class.
Teachers will be really confused receiving complaints when they believe they have 100% made the student feel happy and play in the class. Is that the same principle as applied to customer service/sales? If I remain polite and try to make the guest happy, I shall be innocent and safe from complaints? Unfortunately, there is no 100% safe zone in the service industry, if the guest finds out your product has inferior quality, you will still lose your bonus. It indicates the only way to say bye-bye to complaints is to keep improving yourself instead of looking for shortcuts.
Teacher, with no doubt, are producing products and serving different students every single day. To make you better understand, if you pay for a lawyer for legal assistance, the lawyer is very friendly and open his/her full mind to you and code with you as a friend. However, his/her suggestions or proposals turned out to be utterly useless until the day of court, will you file a complaint against this lawyer? Yes, you will. You pay and spend your time for someone to win the case, not pay for someone to be a friend to you.
Now it makes sense, people are coming to you for your aid, not for your smile or jokes. Some teachers mention to their supervisors that they have tried their best to please the students. Well, we will not deny your good faith and effort to do so, but we reserve our opinion on whether such strategy can actually help you get rid of complaint. From our research, it depends on the need of the students, some may expect much, or even too much from teachers, i.e. parents who want their kids to make significant progress after every class. While some others are careless about the quality and money, they just want someone to play and company with their kids when they are not around. Thereby, such strategy of ‘Try my best to please your student’ has 50% possibility of failure.
In the past, Chinese parents are easy to satisfy if the English teacher is a foreign teacher regardless of their teaching quality and method. Nevertheless, in the recent few years, such concept is gradually abandoned because of the crueller competition among kids and the change in parents’ sense of consumption. They are more and more about the utility of a product/service instead of the outlook and surface of it.
So you come to class fully-prepared for your lesson. The class goes on, everything goes well, and the student is eager to engage, then you realise it’s not going where it’s supposed to be headed. Like from one extreme to another, now the student is taking the dominance in the classroom.
I know you are confused once again, some educators may advocate to let students be the one who takes over the class. But please note, this rule cannot apply universally, especially not in China. Of course, kids and students may effectively and efficiently design and create their own study plan as well as material, and ask teachers to engage in guiding in some necessary points. However, such skills of self-study and self-management require a massive amount of practice. From Teaching English as a second language at Acadsoc, things to know ahead (Part 1), you shall be able to realise it is not likely to happen in a Chinese classroom when kids in China usually do what they have been told to do. In this case, they are not supposed to grow a useful skill in self-management and self-discipline. If there is no one aside to keep an eye on them, they don’t even know what to do next.
So what will happen if the student takes over the class without proper experience and self-discipline? They will either find the best way to flee from their parent’s supervision, find a most comfortable way to laze, discuss with you things that are 100% irrelevant to their study in 25 minutes or just play around when you are teaching.
As a teacher, such situation is the worst that could have happened. Even you do not receive a complaint from parents, you might still feel shameful or guilt not to lead your student in a right direction.
And that will be all Acadsoc has prepared for you before joining us. Teaching English online is so mysterious and exciting is because its rules change all the time when the pair of teacher and student is different. And we all know, China, with continuous growing population and economic scale, has stronger and stronger demand in English, or more precisely, online English classes. Which means, not only the wealthiest people, nowadays, even middle-class families are trying their best to let their kids capture English and study abroad.
Join us, Join the future! Happy Chinese New Year to all of you! 新年快乐！