Things I learned the hard way

When I first arrived in taiwan I was the worst teacher ever. I could have been worse only if I had murdered one of my students. Here are some lessons I learned the hard way:

1- When a joke dies, let it, and move on, or it will take you with it.

2- Learn everyone’s name as quickly as possible.

3- Call on individual students by name. Do not ask “does anyone know…”

3- Elaborate activities raise expectations and buy no lasting gratitude. The most popular teachers are consistently good, not fantastic one day and burnt out the next.

4- Your students will often be intensely interested in you for the first hour of the frst class. After that, stop talking about yourself.

5- It’s ok to stop being the teacher when you punch out for the day. Don’t lecture your friends.

6- It’s hard to make your class too easy. It’s easy to make your class too hard.

7- Your humor in class should not depend on irony, sarcasm, or pop culture and literary references.

8- Teach vocabulary as you go, not before you read a new article. People learn best in

9- If you can’t explain something in simple words, you probably don’t understand it well. Be humble and willing to learn. During prep, look up even words you think you know.

10- Examples are good. Abstractions are bad. Show rather than explain.

11- Be positive. Nobody likes a whiner.

12- End and begin each class with something exciting or funny, like a joke or a silly picture. Even if the rest of the class sucked, they’ll remember the beginning and the end.

13- Continuity is key. Always tell your students what they’ll be doing in the next class.

14- Start your class when half of the students have arrived. Do not wait for everyone to show up. It’s not fair to those who come early, and it gives tardy students no reason to come on time.

15- Learn some “cold jokes.” They are your emergency secret weapon to be de[ployed in extreme cases of boredom.

16- Neither criticize (at all) nor praise (excessively). Both make Taiwanese uncomfortable.

17- Don’t be afraid to interrupt the boring guy who never shuts up. If you can lead him gently to a conclusion, do so, but don’t worry too much about his feelings. He has thciker skin than an autistic manatee.

18- You will be tempted to focus on your brightest and most interesting students, but you should give all of your students equal attention.

19- Your students do not want to talk about art, politics, culture, philosophy, or anything “hard” or “deep.” Learn a little about taiwanese popular culture instead. It’s more useful to know who the F4 girls are than to have sophisticated insights into eastern philosophy.

20- Sometimes everything you draw on the whiteboard will come out looking like a penis. Don’t panic. This is perfectly natural. i once drew a cock and balls while attempting to illustrate the idea of “chicken butt.”

that’s all i can think of right now. feel free to post your own lists : )

Great points Beautiful Spam. I’m too drunk to comment in detail at the moment but will do so later.

Cheers. :beer:

Nice list! I especially like #15. I’m known as the bad joke guy in class.

  1. Never draw a penis on the whiteboard, even if it seems like a good idea at the time.

Ha! :laughing:

Nice points. I might cut them out and keep them. I am having problems with points 2 and 3 (remembering and using the student’s names) - there are just too many of them and students keep dropping in, out and changing classes. What I am going to try is photocopying the register and handing it out to the students so that they will know each other’s names. I guess if the students address each other by name it may help me remember.

I sketch a seating chart on a piece of scrap paper and ask the students to help me find their name on the roster for the first week. I write their names into the seating chart so I can call them by name from the first day. I then try to remember distinctive features about them or perhaps their school bag (or purse or shoulder bag for adult classes). For kids, I give them an assigned seat the first day so names are not a problem.

For some reason, I can remember the names of 36 kids within one day, but it takes me about two weeks to know the names of 10 adult students confidently. I can even learn the names of 15 kids in 10 minutes with few problems.

Nice list, OP.

Great List.


edited to include the penis brendon’s penis idea

Your paraphrasing reminded me of this:


edited to include the penis brendon’s penis idea

Can you give us a visual on that idea?

I can’t figure out how to upload an image, but imagine if you will this situation:

You are trying to tell your students about eating “chicken butt” at the night market.

They don’t know the word “butt” so you draw the body of the chicken as a tapered shaft and add two globes to represent buttocks, but your artistic skills are rudimentary at best so the diagram comes out looking like a cock and balls no matter how many times you redraw it.

After 5 minutes of this your students are all cracking up.

And because you’re new to taiwan and don’t know what “chicken” is slang for, you’re making it worse by telling them very earnestly “no no it’s not what you think! It’s a chicken! It’s a CHICKEN!”

And then your boss walks in to see what all the commotion is about.

Such was my frist year as an english teacher.

I’ve had a lot of fun teaching the kids Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds.

“Righto you boys. Get out your Three Little Birds.”


edited to include the penis brendon’s penis idea

Can you give us a visual on that idea?[/quote]

Get me to a happy hour and buy me enough beers, and we’ll see.

That’s Loretta’s department.