Free-rider parents a drag on the English-learning process

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Free-rider parents a drag on the English-learning process

As a teacher, you expect to have the attention of your students. I've learned, however, that English teachers here get more than that. My classroom has a large window looking out to the hallway, and often during the day there are eyes looking in.

Those eyes can belong to my supervisor, who observes my classes to make sure I'm not feeding my kids Big Macs. But other times they belong to a parent of one of my students -- but don't assume they are merely evaluating my proficiency as a teacher.

Parents here take a keen interest in their children's education, of course. Many call the school routinely to check on their child's progress, and my students never fail to do their homework. I wonder, however, if the parental oversight extends beyond checking on homework. I wonder how many parents give too much help. My students sometimes complain when I mark one of their homework answers wrong by saying that their mom or dad said it was right.

And kids who struggle with basic concepts sometimes display a sophisticated comprehension of the same concepts in their homework. They write "concise" answers to essay questions on tests, then write treatises spanning one page on essay homework.

Are the parents providing answers? If so, you can construe it in one of two ways. One is that parents are too concerned that their kids get good grades. The other is that they want to learn English alongside their kids.

Upon examination it makes sense. Parents who lack the time to take English courses can learn through their children's education.?he school provides a curriculum, with textbooks, workbooks and vocabulary lists.

I suspect that many parents feel they help their children while improving their own English. But they are not helping their children as they think. Students must be forced to think for themselves to truly grow. By receiving significant help at home they duck the challenges of learning and are denied the pride inherent to educational achievement.

In a competitive hagwon system, in which student retention is top priority, it is hard to censure parents for anything. So I can only tell my kids to do their homework by themselves.

So when a parent spends 15 minutes peering into my class, I wonder why. She is probably checking to make sure I'm doing a good job. But sometimes I wonder if she's just there to follow some of my lesson. I really wouldn't care if that's the reason. I just wish that parents limited their curiosity about English to peering through the window. Or if they can't make it to the school, maybe they could just flip through their children's English books after the kids have gone to bed.

by Justin Short

The writer, an American, is an English teacher in Seoul.
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