ESL Classroom Issue 2: the BAD teacher


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Unfortunately, this has to be one of the most common problems a classroom faces. What do you do when your teacher really isn’t any good?

For many schools, they tend to think if you put a white face in front of the class the students will get more out of it. Not so of course, there are plenty of terrible white faced teachers, and some amazing non-native teachers. Then of course there are very bad non-native teachers too….unfortunately they are everywhere, and your schools reputation will pretty much be sold on the quality of the teachers they have, so it’s important that you speak up.

Common Teacher Problems:

  1. Can’t speak English well
  2. Don’t understand the technical side of English grammar
  3. Can’t prepare interesting lessons
  4. Don’t allow the students to participate enough
  5. Make the students afraid to get anything wrong
  6. Can’t manage class behaviour
  7. Are constantly arriving late for class
  8. Are lazy and only want to do the bare minimum
  9. Are often absent due to sickness or annual leave
  10. Have poor personal hygiene

…and so the list goes on.

It is always a risk when a school takes on a new teacher as one simple interview and qualifications aren’t necessarily any indication that they will be great teachers. Also some schools don’t know how to assess a teacher well. They only look for the passport, the qualification, the years of experience and the friendly nature. The last one is the most difficult as you may like them as a teacher but that will only last so long if they can’t teach!

The first thing to know (if you are a student) is that if you have a bad teacher, it’s not necessarily your teachers fault. Everything in the school comes back to the management of the school. So here is a step by step process on what you need to do.

  1. Assess exactly what it is that your teacher does that you aren’t happy with and write it down, and ask the teacher if they can help you by…….spending more time doing…etc, explain the grammar more….etc and so on. This is an important step and may be all you ever need to do .
  2. If the teacher continues to perform badly, write it down again and then ask to see the management. When you go to the management you need to take your piece of paper with you and explain what it is exactly that the teacher isn’t doing well, and request that the management speak to the teacher to assess them and give them some help. This will require at least one other teacher to be observe them and give the teacher feedback. Once this happens you should see some change in the next few days. 90% of the time this is effective.
  3. If your teacher still continues to have problems after the observation, at least now you know that the management are fully aware and are onto the problem. But give fair and balanced feedback.
  4. If the teacher continues even if the school have stepped in, ask yourself how much time you have left with this person, if it is only a couple of weeks, you owe it to the school to make sure they know that things haven’t changed, however you will complete the next two weeks but request not to have them again and that they do need to do something about them. If you have another 6 months with them, the school has to do something about that teacher as the damage in 6 months is huge for both the student and the school. You can feel certain by this point that the school is thinking of doing something serious about the situation.

It’s never easy when you get a poor teacher, but my experience has shown that often it comes down to simply making sure the teacher is aware of what you need as a student, and 90% of the time the teacher just needs to be reminded and they will improve, if not bigger steps definitely need to be taken.


6 thoughts on “ESL Classroom Issue 2: the BAD teacher

    • Thanks. Often I think (particularly if they are a white face) they are reluctant to get rid of them as they ‘look’ good for the school….but in the long term it’s very damaging.

      • Oh definitely. The school I was with let some teachers get away with some things they should NOT have gotten away with, all because they were white. Very damaging in the long run, I couldn’t agree more.

  1. When I first started teaching English in China, I was shocked at the wide range of quality in teaching, all the way down to a woman who only taught in China to support her drinking habit and kept showing up with hangovers.

  2. i think this is an excellent Blog – who would be brave enough to put it on the classroom notice board though? In any event, I shall circulate it…
    Coming to KL in January – be nice to meet up

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