Dear Mothers. (A Rant)

Dear Mothers of my students,

I appreciate the fact that you’ve come halfway around the world to give your children a better chance in life by learning English in Canada. Believe me, I appreciate that, especially since these kids are my paycheck. However, you and I have some fundamental differences in outlook, and I really need to get them off my chest right now.

Your children are not computers. I cannot upload any magical Learn English programs into their already pulsating brains. Neither can I wetwire them a la William Gibson to be able to understand, process, and put out university-level English. Yes, a babelfish would be nice. But I don’t have that technology either.

It’s not just me. I keep telling you that you cannot expect your child to be able to learn 150 new vocabulary words per week, and then use them effectively. English doesn’t work like that and brains don’t work like that. Let’s get them writing in complete sentences first, okay? And having them do twenty grammar exercises per day? Ditto. They need chances to use these new words and skills in non-textbook situations.

But you still push. You can micro-manage your childrens’ time, so that they study until 2am, but it makes them too tired to do anything proactive in school. And let me tell you, ladies, they need the ability to think critically here. Unlike the model of education in your country, (pitchers that need to be filled), here in Canada, we require critical thought from our students. I cannot and will not tell them what to think, what arguments to use, or write their damn essays for them. I’m a teacher, not an essay mill. You have to pay more for the mill, which is a flaw in the system for another rant.

Speaking of how your children spend their time, you are hadicapping them there as well. If a kid doesn’t have enough life experience to address an essay prompt like “How can we be good friends?”, or cannot remember the last time he or she had a fun time doing something, they’re not going to be able to write on the topic, and they will lose marks.

As for reading material, I’m glad that you understand that reading is an important part of learning the language. But why do you push them to read such inappropriate books? No, your seven-year-old is not going to enjoy “Treasure Island”. Yes, it’s a kid’s book, but the language is too difficult. Our English has evolved significantly from the language of that book, and there is too much specialized vocabulary. Give them something with pictures so that they can grasp some kind of meaning and work the text out from there.

Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching your children. But I wish you’d stop wittering on about how their work needs to be harder. It doesn’t. You need to chill.



6 Comments to “Dear Mothers. (A Rant)”

  1. By Arwen, January 8, 2007 @ 11:22 pm

    Oooh. Bitch lays DOWN.

  2. By Liz, January 9, 2007 @ 1:14 am

    Yes. I particularly like the fact that I misspelled ‘handicapping’. It adds a certain something to the overall piece: A lack of credibility, really.

  3. By tfg, January 12, 2007 @ 4:38 am

    You should really come to the US. My mom is a retired teacher and she was constantly hearing from the parents how she gave to much homework. Apparently, soccer practice, ballet, and the like took priority over learning.

  4. By Liz, January 12, 2007 @ 9:43 pm

    tfg, that’s actually one of the reasons the regular system doesn’t work for me. At one point, I had a student’s mother call up in a huff. Apparently, I couldn’t schedule a retest for her daughter on a particular day, because the girl had a date. No kidding.

  5. By gen, January 13, 2007 @ 12:06 pm

    I actually don’t believe philosophically in homework as something that should be assigned everyday. I often point out to the parents of children who are complaining that they have too much homework if they did the work in class they wouldn’t have any. The parents that complain about too little, I shrug and say things like, “students should be reviewing their work everynight, reading everynight…” When I actually assign homework, it is because I want them to take on some independence for their learning.

    Truth of the matter is you can’t please everyone. Also, I believe that children should have free time which is why I think I won’t be teaching ESL afterschool or in the summer for a long time.

  6. By Liz, January 14, 2007 @ 9:56 pm

    Gen, it’s true that you can’t please everyone. Kids should have free time, but the way I see it, for my students anyhow, is that their parents would be enrolling them in after school and summer classes anyway. My arguments that kids need time to relax and grow are against the beliefs of their culture.

    At least if they’re learning from me, they’re not enrolled in a cram school that promises they’ll learn 150 ‘vocabularies’ a week. And while they’re learning, they’re laughing. It’s not perfect, but it’s something.

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