Recently, I listened to two ESL teachers talk about an issue one was having with her class of 9 to 12 year olds. The class was made up primarily of girls and two of these girls had started making comments, in both Chinese and English, about the teacher’s body.
“You have a big bottom.” “You are very fat, teacher!” “Why are you so fat?”
This teacher has been in China a long time so has heard this all before but this time, these comments found their mark.
Her fellow teacher had some fantastic advice for her. First consider why they are doing this, they want power in the classroom. Don’t stoop down to their level and chastise them in front of the whole class or punish them directly. Speak to the girls individually, outside of class, explain that their comments have made you feel very sad and to think about how they would feel if their friend said similar things to them. Try making lesson plans around empathy, friendship, bullying…
Now, some of you reading will be saying that this is cultural, that Chinese children don’t understand the social parameters, that this teacher needs to harden up.
But you’re wrong.
Teaching in China has the same responsibility as teaching in America, in Australia, in Egypt, in Pakistan, in the UK or in Africa. Our responsibility as teachers is to help our students grow to be productive members of society. Yes, we need to teach them maths and science and geography and English. But we also have a deeper responsibility to teach our students how to be kind and respectful, how to work with others, how to identify bullying and how to address it.
If you’re a teacher who disagrees, go ‘teach’ at Happy Star Hippo St Training Center and keep flipping your flashcards.
But a true teacher, regardless of your nationality, skin color, accent, mother tongue or bottom size, will address these issues head on, will model kind and respectful behaviour and will produce the kind of students that all parents really do want.
Love, Aunt Elsa