Teaching “Little Emperors”

This will not be a long post as there really is not much to say. In my years teaching in China I noticed that we foreign teachers love to complain about our students, how they never listen, never do their homework, never practice, don’t pay attention or participate in class, and then the parents blame us – the foreign teachers – when their child fails their English exam at the end of the term. We try to hold back Junior and make him repeat the level but that never works because she enough, he will be passed up to the next level.

We often attribute these behaviors – and the parental response of assuming the teacher must be at fault – to the fact that the children are spoiled little emperors for whom life is being paved with gold in front of their feet – by their long-suffering parents. The facts are we protest too much:

Fact Number One: to reach a “Little Emperor” is no different from reaching any other student. They must feel interested and motivated in class. This is no small task given the monumental difficulty there is in making children take an interest in classes in which they have no interest and have been told they have no choice but to study.

Fact Number Two: Parents pay a serious premium to have their children taught by foreigners. When their children fail to learn it is decidedly frustrating so naturally the inclination is to blame the unknown party. This is not a defense of the Little Emperor, more just a human reaction.

Fact Number Three: Most of our students have no interest in coming to these classes whatsoever. No matter how good the curriculum is, it will not make them learn. Thus our responsibility is to make class as interesting and engaging as possible – even if sometimes this means we must act the fool or let the children have more fun than learning.

But then, of course, sometimes some kids are just jerks….

One final note, it is important to remember that many of the worst behaved spoiled Little Emperors act this way because they are simply completely lost in class. They have been passed up a few times and thus have no idea what is going on. It is not your fault, but neither is it entirely theirs’ if their parents continue to pressure schools to pass them up into classes for which they are not prepared. In any teaching environment, we must be ready to whip out extra effort and new skills in order to reach students who have already been left behind. Too often, these students who need the most help are the ones we despise the most….sad.


About redguide2010

While living in China's Guizhou Province I fell in love with the China, and travel more generally. I became especially enamored with the batik art of the Miao/Hmong and Buyi minorities. This love affair filled me with the desire to share this art form and the history, and travel foibles of China, with the world. For Batiks, check this out: http://myworld.ebay.com/guizhoumarket I lived in China for more than 3 years doing work as an English teacher, translator, and political economist. In the course of these jobs I had the opportunity to see not only the Southwest (Guizhou, Yunnan and Sichuan) I called home but also to spend time on business in the megacities of Beijing, Shanghai and the Pearl River Delta. In my experience, even the most modern, industrial and seemingly bland concrete jungle contains a wealth of history and cultural experience - for those willing to scratch the surface. Let's take a peek together!
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