The classroom management issue is big in Taiwan for adolescents (and for many people, adolescence seems to extend well through their 20s), as it is anywhere, of course (that’s why they’re adolescents). In many respects, my fourth grade students are much more civilised and mature than many of my junior high school students (especially a very large percentage of the ninth grade students whom I have been told by their elementary school teacher were quite disrespectful and unpleasant even back then). I don’t have any fourth grade students who sleep in class, talk constantly even if I’m looking right at them waiting for them to stop, constantly touch each other (I have asked this so many times, but what is it with teenage boys in this country grabbing each other’s genitals all the time?) or generally treat everyone else in the room, but especially me, with complete disrespect.
tom: Perhaps the best way to sell it is simply to produce students who out-perform others, even on the tests, in the long run. I seriously think though that if you want to get it off the ground, then in the first couple of years at least, you’re going to have to largely forget about pitching it at/to the kinds of people who go to English classes, which means that you’re probably going to have to forget about it making money in that time also, but in some sense, that could be incredibly liberating. In fact, I’d say you’d basically have to say you’re going to do it for free or very cheaply, but very carefully screen your students, as well as be prepared to kick people out who insist on (subconsciously) trying to turn it into a normal English course.
Basically, recruit a bunch of people who don’t have that much drive to learn English right now and possibly even think of themselves as “dumb” or “bad at school”. Explain what you’re going to do, how and why, and then go with them. Then do it, and make it relaxed, easy, etc. Basically, the complete antithesis of what these people remember school being about generally and what everyone else thinks school is about. Any hardcore buxibaner who, after the first or second lesson, still turns up with folders, pencils, electronic dictionaries, etc. is someone you probably need to kick out pretty soon. That’s why I mentioned pineapple farmers. These guys don’t have a stake in, or an opinion about, learning English for tests because there’s not a career agenda there. So, if they were in your class it would probably be for the sake of ultimately being able to really communicate. Also, if initially, you did it for free or very cheaply, other than losing their time, they couldn’t say you “owed” them anything and that they, in some sense, “owned” you. You could really dictate the terms of what happened in the classroom.
Then, a couple of years later, you shock the shit out of all these hardcore buxibaners when you present your pineapple farmers, your blue truck drivers and Taiwan’s academic castoffs and show everyone else up. You make a giant cardboard cutout of A-Huang, the pineapple farmer who won some national competition, and every time some future student starts complaining about how unorthodox your method is, you point to the cutout of A-Huang and shut him up, quick smart.
The more I think about this, the keener I am to go and round up a bunch of the local pineapple farmers some time within the next year and do just this.