Every time I post about a bad review on VIPKid (of which there have only been 10, out of 2100), I’m doing so from a place of both frustration and a bit of hurt. On the last one, I found that I wasn’t as affected by the bad view even though VIPKid would not invalidate it. The same is not true of the English Center. Last Monday evening(not yesterday), I taught a woman from France who really was quite advanced, I approached my lesson, as I do with all my lessons, using reading. writing. speaking. and listening as the guides for tasks for the students to do. For instance, in reading, I’ll find an article that is appropriate for the client’s job or interest. In writing, I will do some business email correction and also ask the student to bring in articles of their own. Speaking happens throughout the class but I formulate it to try and practice verb tense for the most part. And listening can be easy when you know the student and what their likes and dislikes are. I used that framework with Monday evening’s student as well. But I think I had an inkling from the beginning that things were not going to go well with the student. She did not engage with me in conversation even though I asked her questions and generally didn’t like the lesson. Even so, she didn’t tell me right then, she sent an email to the company. Long story short, I was taking off for lessons and I got a very well-phrased, but traumatizing email from the English Center about how I had to step up my game. It’s hard not to take things personally. Particularly when the email is phrased “the student thought you were wonderful personally but was very unhappy with the lesson.” In addition, the email put the fear of God into me over the next lesson that I had which was a four hour intensive with a Dutch woman who works at the University of Applied Sciences.
In that case, I needn’t have worried. I still used the same approach, reading, writing speaking, and listening with this student. But this student wanted grammar and so the first lesson was spent reviewing every single tense. As it was necessary for the next few lessons, we spent almost the whole four-hour block doing them. But I have learned my lesson from Monday. I have learned that you need to check in with the student. And so that is what I’m doing from now on. In many ways, it makes it much more interesting but also much harder than VIPKid, where are you follow a curriculum of sorts. With TEC you have to make the lesson yourself and sometimes you don’t really have an idea of what the student wants.
Wednesday was a bit of a packed day for me. I took four hours with the Dutch student we’ll call her Alice, and then went to observe a fellow teacher teaching a group of teenage boys. Which was quickly followed by coffee for about 45 minutes with a fellow VIPKid teacher here in the Netherlands, and then I had to go and teach Janice. The upshot of all that running around was that I was very tired but I gained something from it. I told the other teacher of the situation and what had happened on Monday and she agreed with me that she would’ve been knocked back and it would’ve taken her a couple of days to get over it.
While the bad class was on Monday and I could have possibly written it into the blog post on Tuesday, the bad feedback did not come through until Tuesday evening which is why you guys are just hearing about it now. I also managed to use the incident as a teaching tool in the context of women in power. With Alice, I showed her a video on Thursday about the COO of Facebook giving a talk about women in positions of power and how few there are in high executive positions in the corporate world. And how we do that to ourselves. This sparked a wonderful discussion about how, all over the world, the Netherlands included, women, are not able to climb the corporate ladder in the same way as men. About the fact that there is no cost to men for children in terms of their jobs. While for women it’s very hard to get back to a job after taking time off to have a kid. I had thought that the Netherlands was more copacetic about that than most other places. It turns out I was wrong.
I lost sleep over the bad review, dear readers. Nobody wants to think that they’re a bad teacher. But as Jasper pointed out and as I came to realize later in my talks with Alice. No one is going to match with everyone. And also I shouldn’t have lost sleep over it because as Alice put it, a man gets a bad review or does something wrong at the office, and he shrugs it off and get on with it. Women internalize and over analyze and process in a way that is a bit self-sabotaging. Instead of saying: “All right I got a bad review” and going on with my life, I have been processing the incident for a week. And probably will continue to do so. The bottom line dear readers. Is that I can change my approach as much as I want to but if I don’t change my internal thinking and the way that I look at myself in the mirror, I won’t be all right in my own mind.
Over at Writers Group on Thursday evening tech issues abounded as I still could not connect to the Internet at the bookshop. As a test, I went into the pub that we have drinks at and couldn’t connect there either. It’s funn.y because over at the teaching location with Alice, I connected to the Internet just fine. I do hate unresolved problems and this too will eat at me for a while. On the bright side, the lack of Internet forces me to write and I got quite a bit of stuff done.
That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always there’s more to come.