It's time for another "Days Go By" write-up! This time around you guys voted for the Instagram photo of my smiling Taiwanese student, a picture I titled "ESL Student Archetypes". And that's what I came up with, a short list of 3 basic ESL student stereotypes* in Taiwan, plus a few extra contributed ones sent in by readers!
*DRIFTER NOTE: As you read this, please keep in mind that this is mostly
in jest and that I love and treat all of my students equally and fairly. There are
nuggets of reality, of course. But I leave that up to you to pick them out.
The Delicate Genius
There's one in every class, sometimes two or more. But in all situations, they are the Eastern equivalent of teachers' pets.
These kids are endearingly studious and usually possess great beaming smiles that light up your day. These are the kids you love to have. Theirs are the voices that you call out to when looking for answers, the hands you call on when a parent sits in on your class to see how skillfully honed your teaching techniques are. You know they have the answer, and you know they're just DYING to be the one called on. These are the ones that make you look good!
But there is another side to this classroom genius. In Taiwan, so much pressure is put upon the shoulders of such ones who excel in their lessons, so much so that they are apt to crack at even the slightest of emotional moments, like when they say 'd' instead of 'b', or if they got a 97 instead of 100 on their finals. They go silent and things get dark and brooding.
This is when you cater to them, make them feel like the star again. It's the only way. If you lose them, you lose the class. Getting back that bright beaming smile should be your goal. Fortunately, the task is relatively simple. Let them say all the answers right, and they're back!
This is the one that will sap you of your energy for the entire session, leaving you shaking, speechless and exhausted as you sign out to go home, and praying for self-control and flexibility as you drive back to work the next day.
You will always be trying to keep a handle on this charismatic and rebellious little dude. But as their namesake suggests, the pure charisma and character of these kiddos make this the quintessential example of a love/hate relationship.
On the one hand you have a student who runs amok at any inch you give them, tearing off t-shirts, overturning desks, flying dirty socks at other students, or at you, and overall being a little terror. On the other hand, their cuteness level is usually so off the handle that you find yourself totally taken in by their mind-swirling dispositions, chalking it up to charming amusing antics. These little rebels can charm the socks off of any teacher, then throw it right back in their face. And probably get away with it.
My solution: Just let them get their way.
Okay, not really...but I do let them get up out of their seats and help me out with keeping tally of team scores, erasing the board, passing the ball around and 'helping' keep the classroom stuff in order. I find that if you keep these Charismatic Rebels busy, they are usually content to fall in line.
Also, these Charismatic Rebels almost ALWAYS have some crazy back story that, if you had lived the same life as a child at their age, you almost certainly would have ended up more broken than the above mentioned Delicate Genius was after getting a score of 97 on his finals.
Lil' Pig Pen
Remember that Peanuts character who was always dirty? I think his name was Pig Pen, or something like that. Wherever he went, he always had a swarm of flies swirling around his head. Well in ESL world, this caricature is real!
Every class has one, the kid with the same stains smeared down the front of their uniform, running from the collar of their shirt, over their chest and down to their waist, a thick, dark, mysterious stain that may or may not have been there for weeks now.
Lil' Pig Pens have crusty remnants of lunch still caked at the corner of their lips, and when you tell them it's there, they lick it off deliberately, or wipe it with their stained shirt.
These are the kids that sit in their seats and oogle you intently with their finger shoved up their nose while you ask the class phonics questions, and when you stop in mid-sentence and emphatically pretend to eagerly shove your own index finger up your nostril to mimic their unhygienic habits and try to embarrass them into stopping, the class bursts out laughing at your antics, but the lil' guy keeps on digging and doesn't skip a beat!
Good thing for them, these kids are usually pretty cute to boot, and they say some of the the most endearing and hilarious things, so you kinda let it all slide, due to the fact that you just want to pat them on their head anyway...albeit rather quickly.
Archetypes Contributed by You:
The Silent Ninja
These are the quiet ones who can go a whole class without being noticed. They always do their homework and never ask any questions. They sit through class looking like they just want to get through it and go home as soon as possible.
There the first day but gone the next, never to be seen again. Mysterious sightings of the Invisible Kid have been reported at end of the semester parties, but these remain unconfirmed.
The girls (and sometimes boys) who are always bashfully batting their eyes at everyone! They are just so adorable--AND THEY KNOW IT!
[If you have an ESL archetype you'd like to contribute, please let me know and I'll try to add it in!]
I'm JR. I come from a long line of adventurers, some were nomadic explorers of the sea and others wandering cultivators of the earth. Ultimately, this legacy of drifters has deeply affected my view of travel. Read more...