Thursday, November 27, 2008

what do you think?

We got sick again this weekend with stomach flu (Natsuki, Sakura, Emi and I). Not fun. But in spite of everything I still taught English on Tuesday even though *really* I wanted to stay home.

I'm having a bit of a dilemma about the students in my classes. In every class I have at least one student who is awesome. They remember everything, even new stuff, they improve each week and I totally love teaching them. This would be great except that the other kids in the class are totally awful. I mean really horrible at everything. There are two students (in different classes) who are confrontational.

I wish I could ask these kids to quit. I have been preparing the mothers for that possibility by having the kids take a series of tests (once every three months) so that the mothers can see that there has been no improvement (AT ALL!).

But I'm starting to wonder if maybe I teach to a certain "learning type" of child. Maybe the awesome kids are awesome because they think like me. This idea occurred to me before the summer so I have been trying some different teaching styles but I'm still not reaching these kids.

So this is my question. Should I just teach all of the kids anyways (for the money) or is it OK to ask them to quit so I can concentrate on the kids that are doing really well? Is that too snobby?

Another complication is that because of the downturn in the economy Chikara's company may be in a difficult situation six months from now. My ability to make money could be really important next year especially since we will need to pay tuition for Sakura to go to preschool.

I'm usually really good at making decisions but I'd like some advice this time.


Gina said...

Good morning and Happy Thanksgiving Sarah! : )

Hmm, now back to your question. That's a tough one. I'd say if money were not the issue at all. And like you said you have the few really good students who are excelling and the other few who aren't. Then I'd ask them to drop the class. Especially if like you said they are confrontational or whatever, you know what I mean and if they really aren't advancing with the class at all. No matter how you try to change your techniques to reach those few. Geeze, you have tried everything. I take my hat off to you for that. Honestly I do.

But on the other hand. Since money *is* a factor and you can see where you might actually need that extra bit of income in 6 months time. Then, I'd not drop them at all, I'd keep them. The extra income from them could really help. Especially since you'll need it for Sakura's yochien.

Geeze, this is a tough one. On one hand, frustration from those students, but on the other it's the extra added income that could really help you in the long run.

I think I'd say, do whatever you think is best for your family. Whatever feels right in your gut or heart I'd say. But yeah that is a tough one.Good luck with deciding what to do. : )

illahee said...

are the not-so-great students distracting/hindering the 'good' students? if so, i'd ask them to find another teacher. if not, ask yourself if your teaching is that important to you, i mean that if making a difference and actually teaching a child english fufils you and makes you happy. if so, then ask the students to leave. even if you are making a lot of money, if they frustrate you, eventually you will hate (or, strongly dislike) the class, even if 'good' students are in it.

it seems to me that you care about your students, whether they learn or not. if you can live with some students just never seeming to get it, then keep them. and, you never know. one day they just might get it and surprise you. i suggest keep trying different things (as long as you have the time and resources for them) to keep it interesting and fun for all the students.

good luck!

Gina said...

See that's another good point Illahee brought up too. Are the quote unquote "bad students" bothering the "good students." And are those "not so great students" making it hard to teach the class as a whole. Sigh. This is going to be a tough one Sarah. : ( Good luck! : )

Gina said...

PS, I am sure you knew what I meant. I don't mean they are bad kids per say. Just the ones who aren't "getting" the class. When I reread what I wrote, I nearly cringed at myself for writing..."bad students" ha ha ha. For lack of better word. : )

Anyway I have a lot of cooking to do today, so have a good day. Happy Holidays and good luck deciding on what to do! : )

Mom said...

couple of other issues:
1. are you employing teaching techniques that involve all the senses at different times - even smell? that's a big part of learning styles as you know.
2. how much of this is that the moms' involvement? If they need to mom's involvement to succeed and the moms are not doing their part, the only place to improve your teaching is figure out a better way to teach the moms, which you happen to be especially good at.
I always figured when i was teaching piano lessons that it was about 20% reform school, 20% actual music teaching, and the rest giving kids a pleasant musical experience and a good relationship with a consistent adult (that was me, by the way..)Sounds like your classes are about right statistically!!
I'm proud of you, and my observation of your classes is that you are probably doing a much better job than you think you are.
love Mom

Sherry said...

This is a really difficult situation, and I think those of us who have taught kids here can totally sympathize. I really can't tell you one way or the other, but I want to say if you decide to ask some of the kids to quit please be very careful how you handle it as it isn't just a matter of money and your personal decision. You have to look at it in its cultural context as well.

As I am sure you know, turning students away because they are not doing well or because they are displine problems is not the done thing here. As long as the parents are willing to pay, the kids keep coming and the teacher just has to deal with them and there isn't a lot of real concern given to how the child is doing. If the student and parents are getting their money's worth, so to speak, isn't always an issue. Sometimes parents want their kids to study English so they can say they do and that is it, you know. I think that is a very frustrating fact for teachers to deal with, but it is the truth in some cases.

If you decide to ask them to quit and they and their parents don't take it well, you run the risk of getting a bad reputation among the parents. This is especially true if the kids who are excelling and the ones who aren't are friends and their mothers chat. When the ones who are asked to quit talk to the ones who weren't there is no telling what could be said or what kind of impact it could have on your ability to recruit students.

Just my 2 yen's worth. I am sure you will be able to decide what is the best decision for you.

tj-injapan said...

what a difficult situation - it is hard to get motivated when you have disruptive kids to deal with.
could you jiggle your classes around? I mean, is it possibe to group the awesome kids into one class, and try to group the difficult kids into a different class? you could say that you need to re-group the kids based on their current levels, and use the tests they have taken as proof!
or maybe you could suggest that the difficult children come to an individual lesson to "try to improve their skills", but you would, of course, have to charge more for these lessons - the mums might decide they don't want to pay more, and quit themselves? (although they might just say that they are happy with things the way they are and you are stuck with it like that then).
sorry, not much help am I!? hope you can find a good solution.

jo said...

is there any way to put the kids who are confrontational and being disruptive into a separate class? if you could isolate the kids, then maybe you could just deal with each "type" of class and not try to juggle different level students all together.

i have a class of 15-20 students and they are divided by grade, but within that, they aren't divided based ability or motivation (the latter being the more important factor in many cases!). it's frustrating seeing the kids who "get it" have to sit there and wait for the slower students, when i know we could be moving on to something more challenging and exciting.

i also agree with sherry a bit. when i was a kid, i took piano lessons, but after several missed lessons and an "i could care less" attitude, my teacher asked me to quit. i thought i was home free! (i'm sure my mom was NOT happy with me, but whatever! haha) but, i can see how maybe in japan and in a small town that could come back to get you in the end. if you might need their business or the business of other kids in the area in the future, it might be better to try and work around the issue another way.

of course, if you feel you've done everything you can, and the stress and frustration isn't worth the money (current or potential) then maybe you can figure out a way to gently let the students go?

i hope something works out...good luck!!

Kim said...

Ahhh, I have to go with Sherry. The relationships are the most important in my classes. One kid quits and his friends disappear too. Also, my Moms are not at all interested in their kid's progress. I appreciate that as some have it and some do not.

But, like your Mom said, I have had kids that gave me a big headache, but stuck with them for the relationship aspect. And, some of them were the smartest.

I guess, you are probably giving them all more than just English!

DotBlogger said...

I'm just here to say that I love your mom's wisdom and her encouragement.

Henri the Great said...

OK, I suppose my first question would be to ask, "Why are you teaching?"

Are you teaching:

- for the money?
- as an outpouring of God's gift of teaching skills?
- because you're bored?
- because you like the attention of the kids and it fills a "I like it when people admire me" need?
- etc...

The advice in the comments are excellent, and perhaps combined with knowing why you are wanting to do this.. you can figure it out!

(Let us know. Or write a book. I think this is likely a question every teacher wrestles with.)

Hannah said...

I think that if you maybe approached the mothers with the attitude of concern for their child's education, as well as the effect of their behaviour on the other children, you might see a turnaround in their attitude. Or, you might not see any change at all, at which point you can decide which course of action to take.

The other aspect that I'm sure has been mentioned is that the children who are well-behaved and wanting to learn are getting cheated out of your attention because of these other children. It's not fair to them to let things go on the way they have, but I don't think the kids who behave poorly should necessarily have to quit. You could put them on some sort of probation, say, if their behaviour doesn't improve by the end of the term they will not be allowed to rejoin, or they'll have to spend extra time with you after class (which means extra $$$) or something that's appropriate to the situation. You definitely have more options than either suffering mentally or suffering financially, but you might have to get really creative. And not just with the kids. Those moms will probably need a little creative approach of their own. All I can really say is "good luck"!

Sue said...

Hi there! I have been reading through your blog, and enjoying seeing your adorable girls. I only teach my own kids now, so I don't have any great advice (you've already gotten some great words of wisdom). I just wanted to say "hello" from one foreign mom in Japan to another! My four kids have been passing around lots of sickness this season too. No fun at all. I hope you are all feeling better soon!


Anonymous said...

where did you go sarah?? We haven't seen a post in months, unless i'm just missing something? how's everything going?

Anonymous said...

p.s. this is your favorite cousin Kim