How to become the world’s greatest English teacher

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How to become the world’s greatest English teacher

Some people talk more than others. I work with a woman who has to say everything that pops into her head, jumping from her thoughts on Mayan puppetry, her plans six weeks from Thursday and her fears about how a recent paper cut could lead to a tiresome cycle of Band-Aid applications and disposals. Contrast her verbosity with another co-worker of mine, who acts like he needs to conserve breath in order to blow up a really big balloon at his 90th birthday party.
The spectrum of talkers and non-talkers is most evident in the classroom. While some students are confident and naturally talkative, others are insecure and shy. Some students want to tell you everything they did over the weekend, while others will tell you they did nothing, even though you’re pretty sure that they, too, played computer games or watched Harry Potter for the 50th time. Some will answer questions on grammar or reading comprehension, while others will stare at you blankly for so long you begin to worry that immigration officers will raid the school and deport you because your visa has expired.
To deal with the situation, you sometimes throw things at the kids ― pencils, leftover kimchi, whatever you can get your hands on ― to see if you can at least get them to say, “Stop it,” or “I’m going to get my mom to have you fired.” Even that usually doesn’t work and you’re left feeling like you’re leaving some children behind in the educational process.
Fortunately, there is a solution: unfettered bragging. Take every opportunity to rave about your unsurpassed beauty. Mention how your good looks can break cameras. Doodle something on the board and say, “Artwork like this should hang in a museum.” Boast that your singing prowess makes BoA ― if you don’t know who she is, just ask your students ― look like like a garter snake.
Why? Because unless you actually are as spectacular as you claim, your pompousness will get the kids talking faster than they can misspell “phlegm.” I know from experience. When I tried this technique in an especially untalkative class, Reticent Ruth burst out with, “You’re ugly, teacher!” Laconic Lee said my drawings “were terrible,” and Taciturn Tommy wondered aloud whether I could even score a 40 at the noraebang.
When I greeted their protests with a smile on my face, I had gained my students’ trust and let the quieter ones know that they didn’t have to be afraid to speak up. If you know you can get away with calling your teacher a green ogre, you’re not so afraid making a silly grammar mistake. So if you’re having trouble getting your kids to talk, bring an unbridled ego to class. It’ll be more effective than throwing things at them. And unlike kimchi, the kids are willing to mop it up for you.

by Justin Short

The writer, an American, teaches at a private institute in Bundang.
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