It Takes All Sorts

In our final extract from his book Teaching with Chopsticks: TEFL from the Frontline, Jonathan Last makes a light-hearted list of eight different types of student he has encountered.

Now I’ve been teaching here a while, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are eight types of kids:

The Unblemished ones. Young enough to not be cynical, still unfamiliar with foreigners so fascinated by me. My class with Jenny and Nancy, who are still keen that I don’t break the No Korean rule, is an example of this: their English is pretty good, and they’re easy to please, so are a general delight to teach.

The Shy ones. I have this boy, Pat, who never talks above a whisper and sits very still. When the students don’t say much, it’s hard to know exactly what their English level is; you can easily assume they’re quiet because they don’t understand. I wasn’t sure about Pat at first, but, one time, his class had a sheet to fill in with the past tense irregular verbs, and he knew them all. I’ve concluded that, for him, the knowledge is high but the confidence is low, so now I endeavour to praise him as much as possible and give his self-esteem a boost.

Teaching With ChopsticksAn example of ‘The Hyperactive Ones’.

The Hyperactive ones. Two words: Monkey Class. Very cute and funny in their own ways, but I can never get them to sit down and shut up. I stand up and one of them sits on my seat and pretends to be the teacher; I say, ‘No Korean!’ and they reply, ‘No English!’; I raise my voice and they scream, ‘Agh! Teacher dragon!’ and hide under their desks. This is the sort of class where a little planning goes a long way – they find any sort of extra material(pictures, photos, or props) fascinating and love games.

The Funny ones. Despite being a disruption, Rowdy Class’s Tim was a good-natured comedian. His football obsession seemingly dictated what English he knew, with him always saying things like ‘John Terry,’ ‘Manchester United,’ and ‘Ronaldo always number seven.’ This kind of student usually has good English and is maybe bored with the blandness of organised lessons.

The Unmoved ones. When you try to enthusiastically present the text, this lot look at you as if to say ‘So what? Who cares?’ Sometimes they do actually say it out loud, too.

Teaching With ChopsticksLittle angels.

The Cheeky ones. I have a whole class of girls who say things like ‘Teacher ugly,’ and draw pictures of me as a pig. Little charmers.

The Hard Workers (AKA ‘Little Angels’). A class of these is a blessing: they write when you tell them to write, listen to the CDs diligently, don’t talk to each other (much), sit behind their desks, and even wipe the board for you at the end of the class.

The Disruptive ones. They’re noisy, unruly, and are a bad influence on the rest of the class. You find yourself spending the whole lesson shouting the poisonous little bastard’s name (usually a he, but not exclusively) and telling them to be quiet. Sometimes they have to be taken outside altogether – well not ‘altogether’, just for a quick word with Soon-yi, that all-too-temporary of temporary solutions.

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