Perfect students??

This post is inspired by the students in Chia and Varinder’s class: excellent Teach-off:


“I so enjoyed this lesson Mr Wade, you are the best teacher I have ever had”

“Oh no, we don’t want our break teacher, please talk more to us”

“It doesn’t matter that it is the end of class, we so enjoy listening to you”

“Yes, please give us more homework”

“Me, sir, pick me please”

“Can I answer this question please?”

“Excuse me sire, I don’t understand this word, could you please explain it to us”

“I will never forget your lesson sir, being in your class has been the greatest experience of my life”

I may be exaggerating a tad but this is what language school students are like, some would have us believe. It could be to do with leaving their home and going abroad, the environment or just that the only ones who can afford it really want to learn.

It was after teaching such students that I decided to go and teach on their home turf and ooooooohhh what a difference it was. Since then I have taught many nationalities on their territories and it is far from the above.

I believe that many of us in language schools, especially in the UK, are VERY lucky and don’t appreciate it.  I think if you took one of those teachers and stuck them in a Parisian high school with a class of 20+ teens he/she would have a tough time.

I’ve been sworn at, punched, kicked, shouted at, been on the end of thrown objects, had to throw students out, physically restrain them, just walk out and even got called in to deal with other classes and  a lot of that was in the UK.

With the increase of ELF and that now more non-natives speak English than natives, it seems logical to say that far more English is taught in non-native environments in schools and unis and some language schools than is delivered in the UK, US, Canada or Australia.

Students are getting English in the government system as part of their studies and definitely are not as eager as my old EFL school students.

As the world changes we all may end up in those situations where we really have to teach and can’t rely on eager and positive and motivated and just LOVELY students you want to squeeze and hug and who shower you with gifts…and all that. Now it’s just survival!!!


Could you survive teaching English outside your safe environment?


7 thoughts on “Perfect students??

  1. Hi Phil
    Nice post. I work in an IH school in Italy, and for several years all my classes were made up of fantastically motivated, appreciative young adult learners. It made up for finishing late in the evening when they all wanted to continue the lesson in the pizzeria, showered me with gifts at the end of the course and generally made me feel like some sort of combination of Scott Thornbury and Socrates. I got a cold shower of reality when I first went into a state school with the remit of “doing conversation” to be met with a universal shrug of indifference. One young thug even put his feet on the desk and opened the “Gazetta dello Sport”, in case I should be in any doubt about his willingness to participate in my role-play. Thing is, it was fantastically good for my teaching, as I could no longer take student interest and involvement for granted. My admiration for state school teachers who deal with 25+ kids day in day out is boundless, and I think this kind of teaching environment is sometimes overlooked by the gurus of our profession who are generally (not always) teaching in a little bubble of lurve.

    • Cheers Tim,

      Oh yes, I remember the gifts.

      Yes, people in ELT schools don’t know they are born. I started out in schools then thought a language school was like heaven.

  2. Hi Phil

    After teaching in London and moving abroad, I know exactly what you mean about stepping out of your comfort zone: dealing with special needs, demotivated students who don’t want to be there, having things thrown at you, not responding and the like. It’s a challenge to say the least. How you adapt your ideas about language and learning to your new envionment; that’s the test. Lovely mixed classes of different nationalities, all keen on learning English and all full of lovely feedback mollycoddles teachers somewhat. Try CCQing some emergent language when half your class are playing on their ipods, scribbling on desks about who they love or sitting with their finger lingering somewhere in their left nostril, not so easy.


    • Ah Dale,

      Welcome to the real world. I’ll go so far as to say that language schools with perfect kids are definitely in the morning and I think every teacher should go abroad and experience different environments. I used to moan about the odd student not doing homework. PAH! My first class when I left ELT schools was horrible. They refused to be taught and I just stopped the class and asked what was wrong.Turned out they loved their last ‘cool’ teacher. At one point I just walked and went home. That worked and turned out to be the general method of choice.

  3. This is why I often ask other teachers about discipline/motivation issues. There’s something worse than schools in non-native environments, and that’s language schools in nne! At least, in schools, they have the exams as “motivation”; in these language schools, they are sent there, obliged by their parents, after a long hard day at school, and you can almost sympathise with them that the very last thing they want is to “learn English”. It may be all right if you’re a clown, a comedian, a full-fledged entertainer, but if you’re not, like me, you will often be driven to question yourself if you’re cut out to be a teacher.

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