It has been a while since I started teaching at York School of Foreign Languages. The “s” has always been at the end of ‘Language’, but to my knowledge, English is the single language that we teach.
I’ve had many, many interactions with T.A’s (teaching assistants), students, fellow teachers and of course the all-important parents. It is important to remember that they are the ones who are paying for little Yo-yo and Cindy to come to school at our establishment and learn valuable verbs, nouns and adjectives. Some of the ones they bring in to the classroom from watching a Hollywood blockbuster aren’t always welcome, but at least they are using English instead of their L1 language – Chinese.
So far, I have probably held over twenty parent-teacher meetings. These are usually at the end of each course. For example, every level of Hip Hip Hooray level is separated in to two courses, one 1A, one 1B and so on until they reach senior level. Normally they go off without a problem, minimal fuss from the students and next to no questions from the parents themselves. However, if you have a troubling class or a few overly demanding parents, they can become rather laborious.
Being a private school means that, in general, the school is there to accommodate the parents as much as possible. With a public school, backed by the government, within reason the school can act as they see fit. As the parents are paying a lot of money for a three month course at a language school, they want to see improvements made, sometimes to a daunting or an unachievable level.
When I started teaching, the parents’ meeting wasn’t something that I had looked forward to in earnest. In hindsight, even if I hadn’t been totally confident of giving a good impression of myself, or showing the parents what I could offer, the majority of the feedback they gave me was incredibly useful.
Becoming a better teacher, I think you need to take on as many perspectives as possible. The parents would be seeing something at home that I would be missing in a busy class and it was this that helped develop my classes in to more well-rounded teaching environments.
I admit though, that some of their problems or questions were a little out of my control. I recall that one parent wanted me to do something about the amount of confidence her son had when talking in front other people. Although I aim to encourage and give confidence to everyone I teach, there is only so much I can do to coax a child out of their shell, especially if they are naturally shy and only ten years old.
Another parents’ question to the T.A (who had studied in Australia periodically) asked why her 6 year-old daughter hadn’t adopted an English accent yet like mine. Put on the spot, I didn’t really know how to answer this apart from pleading for patience.
Their experiences have all added to my development as a teacher and given me insight in to how parents view their child’s progress. Hopefully, long may they be happy with my teaching style and amongst all the questions there has also been a lot of praise. There is nothing more satisfying than a parent thanking you for helping their son or daughter.