Whenever I do a PTM I have a sheet that has some feedback and suggestions on it.
- Speaking: This is a big one. I tell the parents if their kid is talking or not, and many times it’s not good. Lots of students, especially the younger ones, and especially the girls, are just so quiet in class. When I get them into the PTM meeting, they’re just as quiet. I have to really prod them to talk, and I tell the parents this.
- Homework: I have a figure that shows how many homework assignments the student has completed, as well as how many they should have completed. Most of the time the bottom number is a lot higher than the top. Students in China have too much homework as it is, so I really don’t push them on this, just show the parents how it is.
- Reading/Writing: This one is really hard to tell unless you have the student’s book in front of you, or if you have a keen memory of that particular student. Most of the time I have neither. So I just say they are doing well.
Other areas that I often mention, but which are related to the previous three, are confidence, listening, and participation. I’ll mention behavior if it’s warranted, which with younger learners, it almost always is.
What always surprises me, however, is how each parent thinks that their student will just be an amazing English speaker with only two hours a week of study. That’s just not the case, and it’s not helping anyone when they think like that.
I know that when I took Chinese classes I barely studied, and that’s why I don’t speak Chinese. These students spend so much time speaking Chinese in English class, like I did when I was a Chinese language student, that it’s surprising they learn anything at all. And when I ask them if they opened their book and studied during the week, most answer that they hadn’t even taken it out of their bag.
Well, they’re spending the money to take the classes, or I should say their parents are, so it’s fine with me. After talking to hundreds of parents over the years, you just build up a tolerance for this type of thing.