When I first taught I had about 50 kids in a class, and about 15 classes each week…all different. So that’s 750 students my first year, and then another 750 my second when I did the same format.
After that I went to a training center where the max class size was 16 students…though you’d typically have fewer than that.
It’s hard to say how many students I had over those three years, plus the miscellaneous tutoring students I had. Usually I’d have about 10 to 12 classes a week at EF and that means there’d be about 150 students a week. It was typically lower than that, however, but you have to figure that classes changed every 4 to 6 months, and new students would come in. Besides that, there was always a revolving door of students, and not a weekend went by that a new student wasn’t put into at least one of my classes.
So I’d say I’ve had anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 students over my 5-year teaching career. Today I’ll tell you some stories about those students, just like I did in ESL Teaching Stories #1. Last time we focused on youngsters, and today we’ll look at teens. Here we go!
I can’t remember if this girl’s name was Beth, though I think it was. You have to realize that all ESL students have a real name and a made-up English name. Oftentimes they’ll come to class one day and tell you that they have a new English name, as if your job wasn’t difficult enough already.
Anyways, Beth wasn’t one of those kinds of girls. She was a pretty good student in my lower-level teens class. In other words, she’d been going to public school English classes for years, but hadn’t learned much more than Chapter 1. So she was in a class of 16 students, all 11- to 13-year-old boys and girls that barely knew how to do greetings in English or tell you what they had for lunch. Behavior, therefore, was abysmal.
Yes, students would talk in Chinese, mess around on their phones, and do other work. You’d go in with a 2-hour lesson plan and get about 30 minutes of actual work done…if you were lucky.
Perhaps that’s why Beth never picked up a whole lot of new English skills. This became apparent the day we had her first Parent Teacher Meeting (PTM), and boy, it was a memorable one.
Beth’s dad was some kind of hard-ass businessman, and he was adamant that his daughter learn English. How PTMs would work in China is that I’d fill out a one-page form detailing the student’s strengths and weaknesses. I’d then tell that to the parent, usually in a small closet-like room, and I’d do that through an interpreter, or Customer Representative (CR).
Usually this would go alright, and I had this process down pretty good because I’d done it hundreds of times. Unfortunately on this day, Beth’s dad decided to act as interpreter himself, and he didn’t really tell his daughter or his wife exactly what I was saying…at least that’s what I learned later.
So I’m telling him that Beth’s a good student but that she could really study more and pay attention more in class – the typical stuff I tell just about every parent! I have no idea what Beth’s dad said, but Beth’s bursts out in tears, and I’m not talking small tears, but the kind that actually burst from the eye and fly out into the air, not even touching the face at all.
I knew it was coming, too. You could see her face, the way she was staring at her shoes, and you just knew that she was going to cry. I expected a few sniffles but not a full-out sobfest. That’s what it was, and boy, that dad looked rather pleased with himself.
I taught Beth for a few more months after that, and then she was gone. Either the class ended and she didn’t sign-up for a new one or she eventually earned-out what money her dad had paid. It was a pretty common occurrence, and you’d just see that student’s name off the computer attendance one day. Just one more student that came and went in a sea of thousands, all trying to make their English dreams come true.