York English - Fuzhou

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1. “Do you understand?”

This is an easy one to fall into. Explaining a new concept or activity and then asking this feels natural. The problem with this is that you’re never going to get the response you want. Some students will probably understand and will confidently answer yes and may drown out students who were going to say no. Photo 3Some students may not understand but might not have the confidence to admit so, especially when the stronger students are so sure they know what’s going on. No one wants to feel stupid, right?
The result of this is half the class get it and perform the activity well, the other half don’t and need guidance on what do to. You, as the teacher, may only realise this after a few minutes, which means so much time has been wasted in the class!

Instead ask: “what do you have to do now?” or a comprehension checking question e.g. “do you have to write 3 sentences or 5?” These are getting specifics from the students and crucially, the students are telling you what they have to do.

2. “Why are you doing that?” when a student starts misbehaving

OK, huge generalisation here, but a lot of the time when a student misbehaves it’s down to something the teacher is doing- poor communication, unclear instruction, not engaging enough or no clear guidelines on behaviour. Whatever the reason, asking the above question is unlikely to garner the response you want. Instead, ask yourself that question. Why is this student misbehaving? What can I do to ensure it doesn’t happen again?

If you must ask this question, ask them at the end of the class.

3. “Helloooooooooo!”

Photo 4Allow me to explain… as an English teacher (perhaps a native-speaking English teacher) one of your roles in the classroom is to be a model for the students. When working with kids, you will find that they mimic you a lot. Therefore it’s really important they get a good model from you all the time. So when entering a classroom, make sure that you give a loud, warm and friendly “Hello!” (or your greeting of choice) not a protracted, elongated “Helloooooooooooooo” which sounds very unnatural and isn’t how we speak at all!

4. Student answers the question, Teacher repeats the answer aka echoing

Photo 2Another bad teaching habit, kind of…. We all know that repetition is a very important part of learning a language but mindless (and boring) repetition of what a student has just said doesn’t offer a lot to the class. More importantly, most teachers aren’t aware of just how much they end up doing this. That means more teacher-talk-time which something we want to reduce wherever possible.

Instead try this: if you feel the student spoke quietly and not everyone heard it, try “louder please”. This places a higher value on student contributions to the class.

5. “This is easy!”

It may be easy for you! But you have been speaking English for years and years! Put yourself into the students shoes. They are learning something new and are getting instructions in a new language. Take a look at things from their perspective and remember how hard learning and language can be!


York English - Fuzhou

This school is holding interviews for teaching jobs now, apply today!

About the Author:

Mike Taylor
I am the HR Manager for York English in Fuzhou, China. Having worked as a teacher and then an Academic Coordinator at York English for 3 years I now head up the recruitment. When I'm not looking for the next generation of budding ESL teachers I like to cycle, watch football and do photography.
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