Why? Well…I’m not an ESL teacher.
Oh, I used to be, and was for 5 years, but I haven’t taught an ESL lesson in nearly two years now. But I have a lot of experiences, and maybe it’s time to start telling some stories.
Stories can be fun, and they keep people interested. One of my favorite high school teachers was Mr. Hartman, who told stories a lot. I think he was just tired of teaching. He taught my dad Current Events back in 1972 and then he taught me World History in 1997 or so. Yeah, I bet he was tired of the ‘boring’ stuff.
Your students are tired of the ‘boring’ stuff as well, and that’s why telling some stories, playing some games, or just wasting some time is good to do. I’m not saying all the time, but sometimes.
So we’ll go into this new and hopefully recurring series of posts on this site, called ESL Teaching Stories. I think the name “ESL Remembrances” sounds better, but many probably won’t know what the hell that is. And Google won’t pick it up, and that might cost me visitors.
So we’ll go with ESL Teaching Stories, and here we go!
Very few times when teaching kindergarten I felt like pulling out my hair, but Icecream was one student that made me feel that way. I have no idea what his real name was, or even what his Chinese name was. This young boy was pretty good with English; he could say all the words we studied and would even try to challenge himself by talking to me before or after class.
The main problem was that he had some of the worst behavior I’ve ever seen. This little boy could not sit down for more than three seconds to save his life. He continually got up and ran to the board, stole my pen, and knocked over my flashcards. And then he’d smile at me.
One time Icecream was really bad in class. I told him that he had to leave the classroom last, as I wanted to have a few words with his mother. He didn’t like the idea of that and so when the time came to leave he tried to sneak out.
I grabbed hold of him and began pulling him toward the school’s front doors. He fought and fought and we even knocked over a few chairs. I finally got him out to the doors and to his grandfather, who just smiled when I told him how bad his grandson was. I don’t think he even cared, and he probably thought it was cute.
I loved Ben. He was such a fun and cute little boy, exactly the student you like to see in your class each day. Unfortunately, Ben had a bit of separation-anxiety.
I first saw Ben when we were beginning summer kindergarten classes. Ben had never been to school before, not even regular public schools or preschools. He was only about 4 years old and was quite nervous. He clung to his mother in the hallway and we had some troubles getting him into class.
Well, we finally got him in and everyone else settled down and sitting on their chairs. I started to go around the room, rolling a ball to each student so that we could learn names. That’s when Ben lost it.
He started to cry softly at first, and then much louder. Soon the tears were rolling down his cheeks in torrents and his nose was running like a river. There was no way I could stop him, even with the Teaching Assistant (TA) trying her hardest.
Eventually I convinced the TA to take him outside the classroom where his mother was. He managed to calm down, came back in, and proceeded to start crying again. This happened each day that week. You’ll see a lot of students like Ben, but the nice thing is that it usually doesn’t last too long, perhaps a few days or a week.
Here was another student with an interesting name. This was the real terror of the kindergarten classes that I taught. I wasn’t his only teacher, and I certainly wasn’t the only one that really hated this kid.
The thing you’ll find with kindergarten kids is that they’re rarely kicked out of kindergartens. Schools don’t like parents to think their kid could be next, even when getting rid of that kid will allow the other students to learn a whole lot better.
That was the case with Mikun; his behavior was so bad that I had to spend the majority of time in class disciplining him. The other students were losing out on learning, all because this one student couldn’t sit down, refused to say words correctly, and ran amok in the classroom.
The worst is when he’d go up and switch the computer off, which was his favorite thing to do. That would cost me about 10 minutes in class and just drive me crazy. He even had problems coloring. Now usually coloring is a great activity; students love it and you can get a good 10 to 15 minutes out of it. Mikun, however, would color his whole page with one color in about 1 minute. And then he’d begin terrorizing the class.
Expect to have many students like Icecream, Ben, and Mikun. But what about the girls, I hear you asking? Well, the girls will give you some problems from time to time, but for the most part their behavior is really good. The only tip I can really give new teachers facing the ugliness of teaching kindergarten is to discipline firmly. Let the students know you’re the boss, not them. And don’t take any guff from them; remember, these are kids, you tell them what to do!
Yeah...good luck with that :)
English Last: True Accounts of Teaching in China