Category Archives: Teaching

Tales from the classroom #006

So, I teach kids.  I teach teenagers. I also teach adults.

Now, as a teacher and instructor, I come across all types of students. Some are just assholes.

Just last week, I encountered one such student. Now, we’re talking about an adult class, where you’d expect people would be mature.

Not the one student that I had to deal with. This individual did poorly on the final test – and when I was approached and asked why the score was low, I explained the answer in detail.

This person couldn’t handle it, and started talking about other students’ scores. To be professional, I gave encouragement and stated that it’s not about comparing yourself to others; it’s comparing yourself to your own performance from before. As long as you’ve progressed, you’ve done a good job – don’t worry about the score.

This asshole didn’t care – basically this individual is someone who just overestimates their own ability by trashing other students. Totally unacceptable and unreasonable the way this asshole chose to deal with the situation after consulting with me.

It’s just another reminder: Hey, there’ll always be assholes in your classes – even adult classes where you expect people to be mature. I guess for some people, you’re not going to change their opinion even though their thinking is flawed.

It is what it is.


Tales from the ballpark & classroom

So, minor-league baseball season is over. For the last 11 weeks, I’ve been juggling my time at the ballpark and in the classroom.

Amazingly, for each of the last 11 weeks, I’ve been asked to go in to substitute for various teachers at the same school. 11 straight weeks! During those times, I’ve subbed for A. #1, A. #2, C., D., M., R. #1, S., and R. #2. …. So, basically, I’ve subbed for all levels of ESL as well as Advanced, SSP, UCPP, TESOL, TYCP, and IELTS… pretty much everything. Sometimes during those 11 consecutive weeks, I went in for three straight days or just once a week, but the streak has lasted 11 weeks so far.

And, 10 times, I was in the classroom at 9 a.m. and then had to be at the ballpark by 12:10 p.m. for that night’s baseball game, often not getting home until 11:30 p.m. Those 10 days, in particular, were long days. But baseball is finally over.


I’m proud of myself for remaining calm and positive at all times. There were multiple times when I was yelled at, but I remained positive and did my work. During those situations I always kept a smile on my face and had a positive attitude. It’s hard to do that. But I’m proud of being able to do it during those especially tough times. I strongly believe it’s important to always remain calm and positive, and work to solve problems instead of creating them. Sure, there were frustrating moments here and there… but I’m very proud of the work that I was able to achieve despite those unpleasant times.

We’ll see what next week brings.

UPDATE: Sept. 10, 2016 – As it turned out, in the 11 weeks of baseball, I was called in at least once in each of those 11 weeks to be a substitute. Naturally, the streak ended at 11 weeks as I was not called in for a 12th consecutive week. So, the streak ended at 11 weeks – when I had no more baseball obligation. Also, as it turned out, I will not be brought back to the school as a regular teacher. 

Dec 2014: Motivational Speech to Engineering Students @ University of Datyon

From Dec. 2014: I was asked to make a motivational speech to inspire international students in third-year Engineering at the University of Dayton (OH).

Unfortunately, they didn’t film this and I recorded it myself but the recorder didn’t have enough space at the end so the recording is incomplete.

The purpose was to help the class, most of which consisted of international students, feel inspired and realize it’s possible for them to get adjusted to North American life. Their professor had reached out to me to fly down there to motivate and inspire them – and I accepted.

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…