Monday, March 10, 2014

Education: Quality or quantity?

“Nowadays, kids are different,” I was told a few days back just before I started my class. Yeah, they are indeed a different breed. They pay the fees, so they set the rules. Actually it’s their parents who have to fork out the money, but what do the kids care anyway. All they care about is going to class, listening to jokes, having some activities, and doing minimal work. Who could blame them, as they have co-curricular activities after school, thus a few would attend my 6:00PM class in their school attire. I have also seen students nodding off right in front of my nose! A sign of boredom or exhaustion, or both?

Then I heard another “breaking” news – that the enrollment is sliding downward rapidly, and I suspect that I’m one of those who could contribute to that decline. Then, advice was given to me; I was all ears, as teaching is my rice bowl, and I was willing to make a change. I mean, who would want to lose their only source of income when you have loans to pay? I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my silent mouth. I am still baffled by the fact that numbers still play an important role in the private education industry, very often at the expense of quality. If you cannot retain students no matter what, enrollment drops and chances are, you’d be out of job sooner than you could bat an eyelid.

What have I done wrong? Haven’t my over two decades of teaching experience taught me anything new? I have learnt, actually. It’s just that the pace of change is too rapid to keep up. I have learnt that students are very different, and they’re not attending tuition to actually learn, but to have something “extra” that is missing from school – the fun element. But hold on, being a conservative teacher, I’ve been doing it all “wrong” thus far. Nevertheless, after some “brainwashing”, I did change a bit in the teaching method. I’ve done the following:
  • ·         Using music followed by language-related worksheet
  • ·         Getting them to do a poster, given a theme
  • ·         Getting them to write a hilarious story, given a phrase
Did those work? NOPE, they didn’t. They still wanted to leave because “the teacher is boring”. The reason, apparently, is because they have been so used to the “fun” teacher that they used to be with for two years or so. Therefore, I presume, they’ve had lots of difficulty adjusting to other teaching styles. Oh, just great. Now teachers have to adapt to THEIR wants. They know they’re holding us hostage – “I don’t like you, I go elsewhere. So do as we say or ship out!” – that’s the message I get.

What’s worse is that they make a mockery of the activities that were carried out. It is very disturbing and not motivating when a phrase like: “This is BS” when I handed them a piece of paper as their worksheet. I could have done physical harm to that provocateur, but knowing how verbally brash kids can be these days, I’ve become “smarter”, so I laid off and assumed that he was just saying “OMG” differently. No word of thanks, nothing for my effort. And they didn’t take the activities seriously anyway, or was I being overly sensitive to these new breed of students who don’t have the word “respect for teacher” in their dictionary? Well, I’m not asking for it. Never did, never will.

I’ll be using the newspaper as my next strategy in my next class. I won’t be hoping for much change, but my job is to teach them; I’m not a joker. When the time comes for humour, it will come. If this “new” attempt proves to be futile again, then it’s best these problematic ones go elsewhere. It’s better to lose them than to lose the entire class. There are those who seriously want to study no matter how tired they are, and I cannot deny them that right for the sake of profitability.