Friday, June 08, 2007

Young students for success

I am now in my fifth year of teaching English in China and during that time my students have become younger and younger. I never really planned this, it is just the way things have developed. Because language acquisition at an early age usually depends more on repetition and drills, you can have a slightly larger class with the younger students. By doing this you can effectively teach up to about twenty students at a time. This means a good income. One of the problems you encounter in China is that by the time students reach middle school their schedule is so packed that they often drop out of English lessons. This is most unfortunate for the student and also for the school or independent teacher. You are always losing students to a busy schedule, right at the time when the students could really be making major strides in fluency. Another aspect that is on a more personal level is that you never really are able to have any kind of intellectual conversation, as the students seldom stick around for the the higher levels of classes. This has been a problem for me as my largest classes have over time become my smallest classes. Sooner or later, you must combine classes, or raise your prices. My highest level classes have about six students. So you are faced with some tough decisions. I want to reward my students who have been loyal but the reality is there is very little loyalty. When you can replace a class that brings in 50 to 60 rmb per hour with a class that brings in up to 250 rmb per hour there is little to consider. This will happen if you become a successful teacher. Getting students at a young age become effortless as word of mouth spreads and if you are independent that is a great thing. But eventually, those classes will start to get smaller as you move into their second or third year of learning.

There will also be some students who cannot move forward for one reason or another and that will make some parents question your ability rather than the study habits or capability of their own child. There is some truth to the saying that there are no bad students only bad teachers, but with some students you can just see the lack of connection inside by the evidence outside. In my experience there will always be three groups within a class, the standouts, the steady learners and the dullards.

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worldtour aka Larry Rhoe