He was making bad decisions all term long, which resulted in failing the course. In order for Edward to pass my advanced academic ESL course and move on to English Comp, he would need to repeat the course. He would also need to change his habits such as coming late and forgetting assignments or doing them with little effort.
After he found out that he failed, I emailed him to let him know that I could give him advice about how he could pass next time. To my surprise, he asked for it.
My first impulse was to make a list of all the things that he needed to change in his study habits. Then I realized that there was a more positive approach that I could take to giving this advice.
I have found that students seem to be more affected by what other students do in a class than what an instructor tells them to do.
Feeling shy in social situations
(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)
Why do Asians often seem so shy in social situations compared to westerners?
To illustrate how the subject of cultural differences is the best subject, I’ll include a reading passage about this followed by discussion and writing activities related to this.
This “shyness” topic is an effective one for demonstrating the important aspects of this “best” subject:
After the first day of the term a few years ago, I noticed a long line of students outside our Academic ESL (English for Academic Purposes—EAP) director’s office. It was my first day teaching in this program, so, needless to say, I was curious. It turns out these students all felt that they were not in the right level.
I soon discovered that this was a common occurrence on the first day of each term. During that first term for me, we made a change to the format of the courses. After that, students rarely complained about being in the wrong level. And students’ skills improved substantially. Here is what we did.
“Other students have done it and so can you!” (Photo by Jakub Botwicz)
A very powerful tool for motivating your students is their belief that your course will help them develop their skills. Just giving them a syllabus at the start of a term with a list of goals for the course seems to have little effect on the level of confidence students will have. However, testimonies by previous students (your students’ peers) about how much your course has helped them can give your course a great deal of credibility.
Showing frustration doesn’t help
One of the best pieces of advice that I received early in my teaching career came from a Japanese administrator. Over the years he had witnessed visiting American instructors showing their frustration with Japanese students vocally or through their body language. He said that with Asian students, these demonstrations can have the opposite effect of what the instructors were hoping for. According to him, only children or someone immature is unable to control their emotions, so the students will probably lose respect for the instructor.
I can say that in my 35-plus years of teaching international students, I’ve never been in a situation in which my only option was to show anger. This isn’t to say that I’ve never felt inside like screaming; I just know that nothing would have been gained by actually doing it.
My “never show anger” mantra was recently challenged by a student.