Monthly Archives: June 2016

Teaching Life – 003

It’s common knowledge that in order for an ESL learner to improve his/her English, it’s a good idea to practice listening to conversations on TV shows, radio, and in movies. You know, scenes from family or office drama talk talk about common daily activities are especially useful.

Last summer, I taught a small group of students who had the habit of watching only Chinese videos or reading Chinese items on their smartphones during breaks. So, in order to encourage them to watch English, I prepared a script and a few clips from a TV drama so that these students would get used to watching English programs. I mean, after all, if they’re watching and reading Chinese things during break time, it’s safe to assume they do the same at home.

I explained the premise of the show, went over some very useful phrasal verbs that are from the show, and proceeded to play it. Next thing you know, one student decided to go on her WeChat (Chinese messenger on phone) and started chatting on there. I stopped the show and politely asked her if she was okay, etc. Instead of responding nicely, she lashed out at how I was wasting everyone’s time because they could watch this at home and they’re not paying to do this in class.

It was very rude of her and also disrespectful. My role as their teacher was to encourage them to improve their English so that they could do well on their tests, and I had seen them only watching things in Chinese and they had struggled with their spoken English and vocabulary. Here I was trying to help them, by teaching English in the classroom through an English TV show, and I was accused of wasting their time.

With that kind of attitude and close-mindedness, it’s no wonder some of them struggle with the language. They don’t try hard enough. They’re stubborn and don’t recognize effective ways of learning even when it’s presented to them. Instead of embracing what we were doing in class, that student lashed out and of course everybody followed.

This was one instance where I felt like teaching was not rewarding – it wasn’t the fact that I didn’t put in any effort. I did, as evidenced by the fact that I had sheets with the useful phrasal verbs that we went over. It’s when people refuse to listen, when they have their own ideas (which don’t work), that frustrates me as a teacher. But, that’s life. Oh well. I can honestly say I tried.


Teaching Life – 002

Several weeks ago, I tutored my 10-year-old student at her house. She’s very talkative, and on this day she randomly asked me when was the last time I cried. I did not answer directly, but I admitted that I might perhaps cry when watching a sad movie or reading a sad story…or even a touching story (such as this one).

She then said that it was not acceptable, because crying is annoying. She explained that she had not cried for many years, and every time she was sad, she simply became angry or thought about happy things. She also told me about a boy in her class who cried when someone stole his pencil. According to her, she smacked that boy for crying over a very small reason. (I think that the boy will probably get bullied a lot because people think he’s weak.)

So, the impression you give other people is very important. That reminds me of another class from several weeks back. From time to time, I substitute at a private school for adults called “SGIC.” Amanda, one of the regular teachers at SGIC, once lent me her TYCP binder so that I could study the materials for their TYCP course.  One day, I gave my Grade 5 student, Jason, a test in class. During that test, I took out the TYCP binder to study it – so that I could formulate a plan on how to teach that program. Then I put the binder down to focus on Jason. However, he saw the binder and he saw the words “St. George” (because it’s an SGIC binder and the “SG” in SGIC stands for “St. George.”).

He immediately assumed “St. George” was the same as the famous private school in Vancouver, St. George’s. (Many rich parents like to send their children to St. George’s private school – which is near Dunbar and West 29th in Vancouver West – because it has good reputation.)

So, Jason asked me which grades I taught at “St. George’s.”

I didn’t correct him. I just answered, “My students are a lot older than you.” My answer was just my students were “older” – which was a true statement. Anyway, Jason incorrectly assumed I taught high school students at “St. George’s.” He started thinking I was rich because I taught at this prestigious private school.

I changed the topic and I might have said, “Let’s do a unit on commas now,” or something to that effect. And then every time when I have a class with him, he would ask me about “St. George’s.” Every time I would say, “My students are fine,” and then change the subject.

Was this a “lie”? Maybe we can call it a “white lie.” He seemed very impressed that I was from some prestigious high school. But even if he finds out the truth in the future, it’s not going to affect him.

The point of this story about Jason isn’t about how I lie to my students. The point is perception is important. If you’re a man, you’re expected not to cry. If you work at a “prestigious” place, you’re more respected.

That’s the unfortunate reality of life, of society. I mean, my job is to inspire these kids, and if the 10-year-old girl thinks I cry, then that’s not going to inspire much confidence in her. And if the boy Jason thinks I’m rich, maybe that’ll inspire him.

That’s just the unfortunate reality of life, of society… That’s just too bad…


Former MLB player Doug Jones’ story

The Single-A season in Minor League Baseball has just started, and I’m pleased to share that my story on former Cleveland Indians closer Doug Jones made it into the 2016 Vancouver Canadians program book. Check it out starting on page 48 here.

Get a copy of the program book for $5.00 if you’re at the ballpark!

Teaching Life – Part 1

Teaching kids and teenagers is always very challenging, whether they are 10-year-olds or Grade 10 students. Just this week, I tutored a Grade 10 student who was preparing for her high school final exams – and her weakness was writing (her highest score was 9-out-of-24 for essays).

I brought 10 different examples of B.C. high school essays that got an A or a B to show her what “good” and “excellent” essays look like. I explained how to write an effective first paragraph (ie. introduction) with my own example on the whiteboard, how to write a strong second paragraph (again with an example on the board), and also how to connect them to the third and final paragraphs.

I explained too that the example essays are useful because they all show the proper way of writing an essay. Unfortunately, the student said she wanted to write her essay using her own methods.

At the end of the lesson, she left all of my handouts on the desk and did not take them with her!! It means she didn’t want to read or review the good essay examples at home.

I was frustrated because it seemed she did not care. This is where my “passion” or “caring too much” in teaching really showed because I was annoyed that the student didn’t want to accept my suggestions/ideas. Maybe it’s easier for me if I didn’t care so much – but that’s not my teaching style; I’ll be frustrated if students don’t listen or accept my feedback.

But hey, that’s the life of a teacher.