I had a terrible thought cross my mind today while I was marking a test and I wanted to share my ‘horribleteacherness’ with you (new word?). Let me start by giving you some context.
I teach one to one lessons and my learners are in their teens. My leaner, let’s call him X, has been learning English with me for about 6 years now. He was a student at my langauge school and when the language school shut down, I took him on as a one to one learner. So, we have been a team for a long time. When you have a learner for so long, lines start to get a bit blurry cause the relationship becomes a bit more personal. Your student is like your kid. I have a great rapport with X and he feels comfortable when we have lessons, but he is a teenager taking exams. He wants to pass, I want him to pass, his parents want him to pass. Is passing an exam what’s important? No. But com’on, it is the Greek reality and I roll with it.
So, X has been acting up lately. Revolting. Being a teanager and our great rapport has moments when things get a bit electrified (aka he pisses me off). But we do have a good teacher-student relationship and in the end I do get the message accross (aka I am the boss, I win).
About 10.000 words later, I am going to tell you what the problem is. It’s one month before the test and X wrote a mock test which was supposed to be 90 minutes long and he finished it in 50 minutes.
He gave me the test and said, ” I finished. It was easy”.
Me: ” Are you sure? Did you check everything?”
X: ” Of course Miss! Always! I am going home now.”
Me: ” OK”
But! Of course he didn’t check everything and of course he got a low grade. He can do much better than this and that’s where my ‘horribleteacherness’ will come in. I am going to take X on a guilt trip and play the ‘I am disappointed in you’ card.
You (the reader): “Oh! No, you aren’t!”
Me: “Oh! Yes, I am!”
Time for a guilt trip!
My teenage student needs drastic measures and I am taking them. I will say that:
- I believe in him and his capabilities.
- I am going to ask him to tell me why he finished so quickly.Are there things he had difficulty with?
- I am going to ask If this is the best he can do. If this is what his best effort looks like.
- I am going to say how this test makes me feel like a teacher.
- I am also going to use the F word. yeap. Fail. “If you keep this up, you will fail. If you do not try harder, you will not pass”.
Now, before, you start rolling your eyes, and feeling like unfollowing me and giving me a piece of your mind regarding how anti-pedagogical this is, I will say that if this was a weak student who needed more encouragement, I would be more soft in my approach, but it isn’t. This is a student who is very bright and often arrogant. Very arrogant. I need to address this arrogance.
Of course I agree with Merton’s self-fulfilling prophecy and I always tell my learners that they can do whatever they set their minds on. I encourage and support them. I do this with X all the time (maybe that’s why he is arrogant) but sometimes I resort to tough love and this is one of those cases.
So, there you have it. You can tell me off now or not….
It’s a test; he risks failing it; you warn him.That’s not anti-pedagogical; it’s good pedagogy. I teach in a university, and I have to use the F word a lot. In fact, I used it only yesterday: “I you don’t submit your term paper by midnight tonight, it won’t be accepted, which means you’ll get a zero, which means you’ll almost certainly fail the course.” So long as I can keep myself from using the other F word, I’m not bothered.
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I think we often confuse “being realistic” with “being demeaning”. Being honest with our students is I think what they expect from us. Obviously, there are different ways of expressing what we honestly feel and we should always bear their feelings, strengths and weaknesses into consideration before spitting our “words of wisdom” out. You’re definitely NOT a terrible teacher for reminding your student of his abilities and the reality he might have to face if he doesn’t do his best.
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No telling off from me either! I’m with Robin on which F-word is worse! I can’t believe you will be particularly mean when you have this talk with him, but it is part of growing up that he is confronted with the realities of life, one of which is that if he doesn’t put in the effort to do his best on the test, this will be reflected in his achievement, which will most likely be disappointing. I think it’s actually your responsibility as his teacher to make this clear to him!! Good luck!