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seazen's avatar

The teacher's reply to this child should have been...

Asked by seazen (6113points) January 30th, 2011

As some of you know, I teach ESL – mostly to kids of all ages.

One of my fourth-graders told me today, most bluntly, that she was unhappy in her (school’s) English class and specifically with her teacher. She explained, rather matter-of-factly, that it simply wasn’t fun with her, and that it was an “experience” (her words) like it was with me.

Her partner in crime chimed in that she agreed with her (I have two fourth graders in said lesson, once a week for an hour).

I said the usual things to her: the teacher has 30 kids in the class, she can’t always be “fun”, you two are the brightest and best in her class – so sometimes it’s a little boring because you are so advanced, thus, with great knowledge comes great responsibility, etcetera) not in those exact words, and not even in that language, but you get the point).

It wasn’t so much to pay me a compliment, or even to complain about the school and lesson, per se, it was more to mention this point in passing. Why do you teach with games and music, she wondered aloud, and my teacher cannot or doesn’t for us all week long in school. It’s boring – was her main complaint.

Did I respond correctly?

Should I automatically side with (an anonymous) teacher?

If they are correct, or incorrect in their assessment and perception, subjectively, does that matter?

How should I have responded? How should I respond in the future?

And does it matter how old the child/teen is?

Thanks jellies.

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14 Answers

bkcunningham's avatar

@seazen I think what you said was perfect. Fourth graders are just starting to get to that stage of independence and a little rebellion and questioning, while still holding on to an adult hero. She picked you as the hero because she obviously thinks you are cool and she can relate to you. I’d be proud if I were you. You are with them enough to ask how the English class is going. If they are issues, deal with them when they come up with the same commensense. I’d take it as a great compliment. I think you stroked the girls perfectly. They may have needed that.

incendiary_dan's avatar

I teach small groups of kids and teens. Personally, I don’t side with other teachers (besides my coworkers, that is). It’s not usually their fault, but teachers in public schools are generally forced into teaching in really stupid ways. In my experience, it’s irrelevent whether or not they know better ways to teach. They just can’t. But a lot of times it’s just what they know, and whether they realize it or not what they’re teaching is authority.

In general, I just don’t like the school setting as a way to learn and teach.

seazen's avatar

@bkcunningham Thanks.

One of them has been studying with me for the last three years, with her annual partner changing. This years’ is a bit of a (self-confessed) drama queen – literally self-confessed, and hoping to join a drama class later this year – sigh, fourth grade girls are way smarter and more sophisticated than I recall us being… some 30 years ago – but I digress.

It was the latter who spoke up – and the other who agreed and chimed in: I always begin our class by asking them “so how was school today” – and they always have English that day – well, most days for that matter. Then I ask them about their studies in general – and then anything else on their mind. Today it was about positioning in the school bus – apparently, sitting in the front is cooler.

incendiary_dan's avatar

That’s whack. In my day, sitting in the back was the cool thing. Also, saying things like “that’s whack”.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

I think I would have been more “Oh, I’m so sorry, that’s quite the bummer, I’ll try to make things extra fun for you here to make up for it”. I might have explained why I choose games and music, but given a reason why others may not. I wouldn’t have sided with this teacher specifically simply because it’s possible (how ever unlikely) that they have bigger problems with this teacher – problems that an adult should know about it so they can do something about it. If they don’t feel comfortable bitching about how boring it is, they won’t feel comfortable bitching about something larger, and many kids know to test the waters with something trivial to see if you’re someone they can open up to and trust or not. Plus, just because it’s understandable (to you, anyway) why this teacher is boring doesn’t make their boredom go away.

seazen's avatar

@incendiary_dan I know, eh?! That’s what I said… but apparently boys prefer the back because they can fool around and make noise – girls prefer the quiet of the front of the bus. Also, they explained, it’s a technical thing: those who are to get off first should be sitting in the front.

seazen's avatar

@papayalily Very insightful answer. Thank you.

bkcunningham's avatar

Yep, @seazen if they are confiding the pecking order of bus seating, you are definitely the cool teacher. Just that you cared enough to question your response to them says alot about you as a teacher to me.

seazen's avatar

Awww. Lurves you guys.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

I think you did a good job answering them. I would have explained that all teachers have different ways that they like to teach, and it’s ok if they like yours the best. That doesn’t mean that their English teacher doesn’t do a good job, it just means that you have different teaching styles.

robinad's avatar

I agree with your response. it sounded like you addressed their needs and comforted them. Which I think it one of your main courses. Good Job!

mattbrowne's avatar

I agree, you did a great job answering them. Learning about complex matters can never be fun only. Demanding instant gratification for everything is foolish and dangerous. Learning English is not playing a computer game. Besides, delayed gratification is big fun and it lasts much longer. The amount of pleasure in life (fun) does not add to life satisfaction. Of course, fun is important too. But not all the time. In fact, fun all the time makes people unhappy longterm. It does not lead to living a meaningful life.

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