Saturday, 26 August 2017

When Should Teachers Throw In the Towel?

The following post is from Jessica H., a guest blogger who has been teaching at a university in Korea for over 15 years.

When do you throw in the towel? I don’t mean quitting expat life or changing your career or even quitting and finding a new employer. When do you quit a class? I was once offered a class of middle schoolers. It was twice a week for several months and offered through my employer at my work site. It paid well and I didn’t have to worry about getting into trouble for working illegally.

Teenagers have never been my favorite students. The hormones and the sassiness that invariably accompanies them has always tried my patience. But I sucked it up and said yes because I needed the money to pay those ever-looming college loans.

How bad could it be??? Show up a couple times a week and try to impart some knowledge of the English language and maybe even have a bit of fun. I didn’t get to interview the students before the class began. I didn’t get to choose the book. The admin decided that would fall on another teacher’s shoulders.The day before the class I’m told that the parents wanted the students to do homework. OK, whatever I can do that. The first day of class I walked in and found a group of twelve elementary school students. They were between 10 and 12 years old. They weren’t middle school students. They didn’t have the ability to speak middle school English. Yet here I was with an inappropriate book and unprepared.

In this situation in Korea you’ve got two choices: suck it up buttercup or complain. Both will get you the same results. Nothing. Nothing will change. You’ll talk to someone, plead your case, and get a smile and the ever helpful shoulder shrug. I charged ahead trying to make the best of the class week by week. I made worksheets and used the textbook as little as possible.

I soon realized the students didn’t know how to write 1-30 in English. No problem! It’s homework! They didn’t know days of the week or months of the year either No problem! It’s homework. Then came the problem. Very few completed their homework. Yet I had no way to enforce it. No amount of pleading or cajoling or bribing would get the homework done. But remember I was told the parents wanted it. I wasn’t given a list of home phone numbers or emails to let parents know that the homework wasn’t complete. That the thing they wanted wasn’t being done.

I threw in the towel. I couldn’t do it anymore. I gave up. The money I so desperately needed wasn’t enough to keep me there. I don’t want to say quit when you’re challenged. Of course no one wants to be a quitter. However, sometimes you’re over your head or your teaching style isn’t working. You can try to change and make the best of it. Sometimes you hand the class off to someone else and shake the dust of your boots and go home. In the end I learned a valuable lesson. I learned that sometimes things are beyond our control as EFL teachers in Korea.

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