How do you be the foreign clown?

I’ve kinda been thrown in the deep end with this teaching gig, and in a school that seems well respected and the teachers seem to take it seriously. I want to do a good job, and I’m somewhat getting the hang of the teaching aspect.
But as for the kids. I don’t know; some classes at least seem to like me. But I’ve found it’s not that hard to impress younger kids. A lot of the older kids are just silent all most of the time (although I guess that’s normal for that age) but I often get the feeling they are judging me, or laughing at me (not with). And some of the younger classes are very naughty, so I can’t control them (they’re fine when the other teacher is in with me but that’s not always the case).

One thing I’ve been told multiple times is how the previous 外師 was funny. Some of the kids of come up to me and said that. The implication is that I’m not. Well I know I often manage to put the older kids to sleep, and I’m definitely not a 活潑 person but I wish I could at least improve. And I’ve been told that’s part of how the previous teacher could keep the naughty kids attention - by being funny to them.

idk, does anyone have some advice?

In case you haven’t noticed, the bar for humor in Taiwan is extremely low. Just watch any local variety show and you’ll know what I mean. Think “slapstick.” Use lots of exaggerated gestures and funny expressions, and you’ll have them in stitches in no time.

1 Like

I think as a general rule it rarely works to try to be something you’re not. You don’t have to be a clown, so long as you are an engaging teacher who seems to care about what you’re teaching. They’ll get used to your style and perhaps even come to like you if you give them some more time.

Don’t take it personally when older kids don’t seem to give a flying shit about you. You’ll never be “cool” to them, no matter what you do. It’s just the age. As for the younger kids, they’re all pretty much bananas and difficult to wrangle. They have too much pent up energy. Unless you are a huge, beastly, terrifying man, foreign teachers just don’t really strike fear into their hearts the way Taiwanese teachers can and do.

Hang in there. Classroom management is hard for everyone, especially newbies. Communicate your needs and worries with your coworkers and management, and see if they have anything more to offer you in the way of advice or encouragement. Otherwise, well, just be yourself, do the best you can.


Advice on how to be a foreign clown? Am I missing something :grin:

slowly give a background story about yourself in your old country that is dramatic, like bail bondsman (watch Dog the Bounty Hunter for story ideas) or moonshiner, or alphabet agency employee. build it up over the school year. of course, write down key events so you don’t forget for the students in the upcoming years.
A friend went back to his country of birth and had a hard time getting any respect from middle school students who were of a minority group, UNTIL he started offhandedly mentioning his past “life” in Taiwan that he started embellishing (a lot).

I like it. I’ll have to write a backstory for myself…

I’m glad I don’t teach at a place where one of the criteria is to “be funny.” :roll_eyes:


Your employer is giving you overly simplified backwards advice typical of detached buxiban managers that have never spent an actual day in a classroom. To make the students like you, connect with them. Do activities they can relate to or are interested in (e.g: if you have a bunch of teen boys in your class, do an ESL activity about whatever game kids are playing these days like ‘Fortnite’ … or you can go with any general topic they can personalize… favorite places to eat, where they go shopping, things that annoy them, future jobs they want, etc). Also show them you give a shit. You may have a big class, but spend time with each student individually. Check out which kids are falling behind or shy, and go to their desk and just try to make them feel at ease. Find out their individual interests too. If you have a student who’s basketball mad, tease him about being the next Steph Curry or whatever. And if all that doesn’t work, then it doesn’t hurt to bring in the occasional snack bribe. Follow these steps and you’ll be Mr Popular in no time. And then they’ll laugh at your jokes, even if they suck.

Oh, and try not to lose your cool. Even if you have a student who is pissing you off, try to let it go. If you lose it on one kid, then he might turn his friends or even the whole class on you. If he’s behind in his work, just ask if you can help to catch him up, but don’t become the “screamy” teacher, whatever you do.

Hope this helps!

1 Like

Becoming a clown takes years of formal training and practical experience. It’s not just something you pick up as a side job while teaching.


Biggest mistake I ever made with kids.

I started taking bags of chips as reward at the end of class for game winners and good attitudes. Seemed to work for a couple of months and I switched up the flavours to what they liked. Kind of a Pavlov experiment.

1 Like

Kids respond well to positive reinforcement. If you have a particularly naughty child, give them some classroom duties or other responsibilities. Try not to get too pissed off at them when they’re dicking around, but react with great joy when they finally do something right.

Some kids act out because they are smarter than the others and too bored. Pair them with the kid who is the most behind. Both parties benefit!

Did you forget your axe ? The movie called the Devil’s Rejects might be a good pointer to get you on the right road to being an effective clown

tfw you overhear a student ask her teacher if they have the 外師 today and to a response in the negative she says “yessssss”

1 Like