Teachers - Students - Parents - Tutors

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Teachers - Students - Parents - Tutors

#1  Postby Cassiopeia » Apr 17, 2010 8:48 am

I thought we could rant a bit in here and look at the problems connected with education and the school system from all angles. Teachers complain about their students, students and their parents blame it on the teachers ... but where does the root of the problem lie?


As a professional private tutor who tries to patch things where the school system has failed someone, I´m kinda inbetween all the chairs ... I see what the kids do wrong, I see where the parents fail their kids, I see how incompetent some school teachers and how useless a lot of schoolbooks are ... and then the size of classes, the lack of supply teachers ... I could go on for hours! To be fair, I guess a lot of tutoring institutes are crap too, but I don´t work for one of the bigger ones (Schülerhilfe etc.) and would never do that.


I often feel like I am the very last link in the education chain - it´s the parents who should provide their child with the basic requirements for a successful school career, but they often fail. Then school is expected to make up for that, but often fails. And then people turn to tutoring institutes as a last resort and expect miracles ... don´t let me get started on the pressure I feel on a daily basis!!



So ... to the parents here - what drives you up the wall about the school system?
Have you had clashes with teachers, and why?
What are your experiences with private tutoring?

To my teacher & tutor colleagues - what makes your job so hard?
In my experience, there are certain traits all bad students have in common, and intelligence itself often isn´t the root of the problem - what does it boil down to for you?
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Re: Teachers - Students - Parents - Tutors

#2  Postby campermon » Apr 17, 2010 9:43 am

Cassiopeia wrote:
To my teacher & tutor colleagues - what makes your job so hard?


In the UK - targets......kids in secondary school are on an exam treadmill. The philosophy seems to be that if it can't be measured (by test success) then it doesn't count!

For example, someone, somewhere in government decided that the measure of success of a school is whether the kids get 5 GCSE's with english and math. Where does this '30%' comes from? Who knows....(I suspect that someone pulled it out their ass when pressurised by some minister or other......). Essentially, a school can make outstanding progress with the kids they have (in terms of progress), but still be classed as 'failing' because they don't hit this arbitrary 30% target. The strategies I have seen put in place to secure this 30% (to the detriment of all) is block entering kids for all exams early (retakes / courseworks etc). The kids keep sitting and sitting exams until they get that magic C grade. Lists of likely 5 GCSE C+ with eng/math are drawn up and all subject areas are directed to focus on these students to ensure they get a C in your subject.

Of course, this pressure has spread to the exam boards, I was horrified to see some higher tier maths papers recently (I'm science) - they didn't contain hardly any mathematics! The same is true for science, although there is some progress being made there!

This philosophy is destroying the education system and in the last 18 months (having taught for nearly 14 years) I have come to the conclusion that I want out of it!

I could talk all day about this stuff!

*rant over*

;)
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Re: Teachers - Students - Parents - Tutors

#3  Postby Spearthrower » Apr 17, 2010 6:07 pm

My answer is going to be outside the norm, I'm afraid, as the majority of my teaching experience is in Thailand.

My answer to the above question would be: culture.

Culturally, there are huge problems here with regards to teaching.

First of all is respect for authority. Now, it sounds nice perhaps to a teacher in a western school system that children practically pay homage to their teachers here, but the result is incredibly frustrating. Kids, and adults, simply uncritically accept anything that a teacher says on the principle that they are in authority and to disagree, or to question even for clarification, is to be disrespectful, which is, as I am sure you can imagine, very unproductive.

Trying to get either kids or adults to critically assess something is a non-starter. They don't want to arrive at their own ideas, they want to be told what to think. They want the answers so that they can regurgitate them and therefore be correct.

Which leads me to the next problem. No one can be wrong. Being wrong 'loses face'. A student would rather sit there saying nothing than respond to a direct question just in case they are wrong. This ends up with convoluted teacher effort to frame things in such a way that no one can be wrong. It's a self-defeating enterprise because they expect to be given knowledge on a plate. When I first came here, I was surprised at how many Thais knew the word 'osmosis'. That's literally how they think education works. The student sits and osmotes the wisdom of the authority figure.

As a teacher who is more interested in giving their students the tools to develop their own answers, this has been a constant struggle for me. You cannot empower people here, and if you attempt to do so, you are failing at your job.

Next is a concept called 'jai dee' - it basically means 'kind'. If you are not kind then you are a bad teacher. To be kind, you have to not expect answers from students, not complain that they have failed to do their assignment, or that they've blatantly copied their mate, or ask them to do something difficult. You are never permitted to raise your voice or show dissatisfaction at their inexcusable failure to complete a very short home assignment. Bear in mind that the vast majority of my teaching is with adults, not kids as you might have expected reading that paragraph.

Your contract with a school or educational institute largely depends on what the students say about you, so to be successful, you need to basically divest yourself completely from student failure - to notify parents, school heads, or bosses of the students inability to progress due to study problems is to put yourself squarely in the target as a bad teacher. However, if the expected educational results are not met, the failure is the teachers.

Middle-class parents are incredibly polite, but they push their kids to exhaustion, enrolling them in numerous extra-curricular educational activities rather than letting them be kids and enjoy their weekends. I had one teenage student who was nearly in tears from exhaustion and stress. She was at school during the week, had private tuition 4 nights a week, piano practice on a Saturday morning, English classes on a Saturday afternoon, and computer literacy classes on a Sunday.... and her parents were giving her a hard time for not completing her school assignments and for 'being lazy'.

Schools are extremely political institutions, with a very clear cut hierarchy that cannot be challenged. Other educational institutions are bums-on-seats, and don't give a toss about class sizes, effectiveness of teaching methods, materials... even sufficient chairs for students.... as long as they can squeeze another few baht out of a course.

Finally, western teachers here are all too often actually unqualified sex-tourists that wanted to find a way to stay, so they took up teaching. I jest ye not.

So when you next think you've got it bad - come and teach in Thailand! :D
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Re: Teachers - Students - Parents - Tutors

#4  Postby Cassiopeia » Apr 18, 2010 5:35 pm

campermon wrote:
Cassiopeia wrote:
To my teacher & tutor colleagues - what makes your job so hard?


In the UK - targets......kids in secondary school are on an exam treadmill. The philosophy seems to be that if it can't be measured (by test success) then it doesn't count!

For example, someone, somewhere in government decided that the measure of success of a school is whether the kids get 5 GCSE's with english and math. Where does this '30%' comes from? Who knows....(I suspect that someone pulled it out their ass when pressurised by some minister or other......). Essentially, a school can make outstanding progress with the kids they have (in terms of progress), but still be classed as 'failing' because they don't hit this arbitrary 30% target.
This philosophy is destroying the education system and in the last 18 months (having taught for nearly 14 years) I have come to the conclusion that I want out of it!


(...)


I could talk all day about this stuff!

*rant over*

;)




Oh dear, I hear you loud and clear!! Why do they want everbody to be the effing same nowadays? Individual strengths and weaknesses do not count, nor does individual progress, I just don´t get why nobody sees they get nothing that way ...

Maths was never my particular strength, nor physics (I was good at biology and chemistry though, and very interested in both subjects), during my time at school it was still possible to get rid of either before one´s A-levels if one took enough other subjects (same for English). Now we´ve had a "glorious" reform here and not only does one have to take maths right up to one´s A-levels whether one gets it or not, there is also a compulsory exam - same goes for English again.


What is the point of this? It was perfectly clear I´d never need higher mathematics again in my life, nor physics, I sucked at both and would have needed private tutoring if I´d been forced to continue with them ... my boss at the tutoring institute I work at makes a fortune with her desperate maths students now, and I torture kids who are brilliant at natural sciences with languages ... fine for us really, but once again, what´s the point? Oh yes, it´s about standards, of course, but if you want standards, that´s not the way to achieve them IMO.



I could talk all day about this stuff as well. :) And do rant on!! :popcorn:
Last edited by Cassiopeia on Apr 18, 2010 5:43 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Teachers - Students - Parents - Tutors

#5  Postby locutus7 » Apr 18, 2010 5:39 pm

Has this homeschooling trend caught on in the UK?

It is almost entirely fundamentalist christian, and although total religiosity in the US may be on the wane, a growing part of America is being indoctrinated by parents using christian textbooks.
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Re: Teachers - Students - Parents - Tutors

#6  Postby campermon » Apr 18, 2010 5:43 pm

locutus7 wrote:Has this homeschooling trend caught on in the UK?

It is almost entirely fundamentalist christian, and although total religiosity in the US may be on the wane, a growing part of America is being indoctrinated by parents using christian textbooks.


There are homeschoolers here, bit I think that many of them are not inspired by religion.
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Re: Teachers - Students - Parents - Tutors

#7  Postby cathyincali » Apr 19, 2010 5:07 am

As a tutor, I totally get your frustration. Cassiopeia. I have dealt with some kids who have been totally traumatized by bad school situations or other problems. Actually, I don't usually feel too bad about the parents--of course, it tends to be the caring, motivated parents who spend the time trying to get a good tutor for their children AND to pay the extra money for it as well!

Besides for the private in-the-home tutoring, I tutor and teach classes at a homework center that has a largely Korean American population. Most of the kids were born in the U.S. to Korean-born parents, although perhaps a quarter were born in Korea. The cultural difficulties don't seem as great as those faced by the teacher who works in Thailand, but they are definitely there. Many of the kids have schedules that are packed with academics -- school, extra classes at the homework center, and homework. Many of the kids have short breaks for music lessons, and a few participate in organized sports, but few of them seem to have almost ANY time for play or down-time or, really, simply time that they themselves organize.

Also, the Korean American kids report that they are under quite a bit of pressure for good grades and good test scores.

One thing that I have really found to work with my Korean American students is to be upfront and honest with them about the school system itself. I tell them the ramifications of various sorts of standardized tests, most of which do not affect the students at all except in terms of self-esteem or bragging rights for the parents. I point out that they are pushed so hard for good results because the test results are important to the school, and quite possibly good or bad scores as a group will affect funding and other aspects of the school and therefore their own experience. The kids feel much more relaxed--yet willing to try hard on behalf of the school--when they find out that the scores aren't going to follow them to college or for the rest of their lives.

I asked my most test-nervous kid (age 9) if there were going to be any REALLY bad results if he scored poorly on the upcoming standardized test. He said, very definitely, yes. I pretended to look shocked and said, "Oh, my gosh, your parents are going to rip all your fingernails off?" He laughed a little at my hyperbole and admitted that they wouldn't, and we went through a list of other possible really bad results, and he ended up admitting that all that would happen would be that they would be disappointed, plus maybe he would face a week or two of more checking and double-checking regarding homework. (These kids are already banned from TV and computers and video games during the week, or at least until ALL homework is done, so there isn't a lot of punishment through removing privileges that goes on...) Then I asked if there were going to be any REALLY good results if he scored well, and he right away started thinking hard and had to admit that he would get no cash or fabulous prize, no new responsibilities or privileges, even if he did great...

I also discuss with students the high school exit exam, the SAT tests, and classroom tests. I tell them about the sorts of people who grade the writing portions of standardized tests, and the problems with creating really good multiple choice test items. The fact that I am being completely honest with them doesn't take away all the pressure (nor does it give back to them what I consider a bunch of wasted time--cuz I am very much against most of the testing), but it has really helped their attitudes and even (sometimes) their scores.

One little girl (age 5 or 6) was so blown away by some substantially bad classroom testing (it was super hard in an age-INappropriate way, all on the computer, with a program that would count her wrong and move on to the next question if she took too long, no feedback to parents other than a number score and letter grade, AND the teacher announced her failure in front of the whole class on the assumption that shame would motivate this girl to do better. What it motivated, instead, was a huge retreat from reading and math. She would literally arch her back away from the book, rub her watering eyes, and refuse to even try to read a word, saying, "I can't really see it..." I had to do a lot- lot- lot during a two-week break from school to undo all the bad feelings she had towards school subjects.... But now, age 8, she is super-successful at school and confident as all get-out. (Not just because of me, of course --her caring parents, her wonderful teacher this year, even her cheery little brother all helped in this process. Naturally, I'm not tutoring her any more--she simply doesn't need extra help. Yeah!)

Another boy had me as a tutor in English and another tutor for math. The other tutor (Korean) was harsh in her methods and attitude, and he dreaded the sessions. Every once in a while he would confide in me the insults she showered him with. I told him that he should tell his parents about how she makes him feel (and of course I also told him to please never believe the tutor when she said that he was stupid, because he most definitely wasn't), but he insisted that his father would be disappointed in him if he complained and that Korean students had to put up with insults. Finally, though, after a really bad session, he finally told his father what had been going on, and his father shocked him by ending the contract with that tutor. I couldn't believe how radiant this student's face was as he told me the story--and of course they hired a really good tutor, and the story does have a happy ending.

I find the cultural differences truly interesting, but I see that, no matter what culture parents are from or in, the ones who do a lot of their parenting from a place of worry and fear tend to have more negative results than those who parent from a place of greater confidence. Makes sense!
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Re: Teachers - Students - Parents - Tutors

#8  Postby Cassiopeia » Apr 19, 2010 9:57 am

Spearthrower wrote:My answer is going to be outside the norm, I'm afraid, as the majority of my teaching experience is in Thailand.


Culturally, there are huge problems here with regards to teaching.

First of all is respect for authority. Now, it sounds nice perhaps to a teacher in a western school system that children practically pay homage to their teachers here, but the result is incredibly frustrating. Kids, and adults, simply uncritically accept anything that a teacher says on the principle that they are in authority and to disagree, or to question even for clarification, is to be disrespectful, which is, as I am sure you can imagine, very unproductive.

Trying to get either kids or adults to critically assess something is a non-starter. They don't want to arrive at their own ideas, they want to be told what to think. They want the answers so that they can regurgitate them and therefore be correct.

Which leads me to the next problem. No one can be wrong. Being wrong 'loses face'. A student would rather sit there saying nothing than respond to a direct question just in case they are wrong. This ends up with convoluted teacher effort to frame things in such a way that no one can be wrong. It's a self-defeating enterprise because they expect to be given knowledge on a plate. When I first came here, I was surprised at how many Thais knew the word 'osmosis'. That's literally how they think education works. The student sits and osmotes the wisdom of the authority figure.

(...)


So when you next think you've got it bad - come and teach in Thailand! :D




Hi Spearthrower! Oh dear, I wonder how you are able to stand it, I simply couldn´t put up with all that. I find it hard to always be "nice" too - but unlike you, it´s more of a voluntary thing because I want my pupils to see me as "the good teacher", a kind of friend, and want them to enjoy our lessons. That´s because most of the kids I teach have such rotten grades and are months, even years behind in the subjects they need help with, I`m trying to give them some fun back, and confidence, hence why I stretch my patience to its very limits every day - but I don´t have to, and I do get snappy and strict now and then, it is necessary sometimes. And that whatever you say does not get questioned - good grief, it can be unnerving when some rebellious good-for-nothing here questions my knowledge and authority just for the heck of it, but I´d rather have that than being some quasi-deity teaching robots. I even encourage my students to question me and always admit when I don´t know something and openly look things up when I´m insecure, I think that also teaches them something by example that I always preach - IF YOU DON´T KNOW IT, FUCKING LOOK IT UP!! :)
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Re: Teachers - Students - Parents - Tutors

#9  Postby Spearthrower » Apr 19, 2010 10:14 am

If I were in another country, I would definitely follow that procedure: I'm afraid I am not sure of the answer to that question, let me check it out and get back to you.

However, here that would be tantamount to saying: I am an inadequate teacher.

Here, the teacher must know all the answers.

As an example from English tutoring, I might be able to explain the logic of the prepositions behind phrasal verbs such as "look up to", or "hand in".... but if I can't provide a comprehensive logical answer for "get round to" it's suddenly as if I am deficient in this area of tuition.

It's a real slog sometimes, and the sad fact is that you end up having to strategise against your students - out-think them, so to speak.

I dread teaching 'articles' with advanced level students. I want to help them develop their abilities, but they are bound to encounter irregularities for which there are no simple answers. The strategy here is to tell them from the outset that articles are so hardwired in the language that it's near impossible for them, a non-native speaker, to ever become 100% proficient in their usage, but that we can improve their ability up to a decent working standard. It's a necessary evil. By sticking in that preface, I have allowed myself a get out clause when they find a usage of an article that doesn't conform to any of the standard rules and can't be given a rule. I still get a sceptical look from some students with an obvious internal dialogue running "teacher DOESN'T KNOW!!!???" but at least they're prepared to be disappointed! :D
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Re: Teachers - Students - Parents - Tutors

#10  Postby Cassiopeia » Apr 19, 2010 10:58 am

Aaaah, my all-time "faves" as an English tutor - articles and prepositions!! :mrgreen:


I just know I get some prepositions wrong myself (even apologised for that in advance in my introductory post in the Welcome forum :lol: - I didn´t know there were so many other non-native speakers of English here yet). There are some basic rules, of course, but let´s be honest, there is no real logic to most phrasal verbs, it´s something one just has to learn, learn the whole phrase, same for articles ... my rule sheet for articles is four pages long and of course it helps, but in the end, if you want to master a foreign language, you have to read, read, read, read and absorb things that way. I tell my students that there are some parts of English grammar that can be taught and learnt easily (the passive, for example), and others are almost impossible to teach. With the latter ones, I tell my kids that nobody taught them to me either, I usually say something like "Look, I wish there was some general rule I could teach you, or that I could take my knowledge and transfer it to your head somehow ... but I can´t, you´ll have to absorb this over time, just as I did." My pupils are perfectly fine with that, they know I do everything to explain something that can be broken down into rules, I try much, much harder than their teachers at school (so I´ve been told countless times) and so they trust me completely. We even have a running gag I coined - they will look at me, wink, and say "Is that one of the many, many stupid and unnerving exceptions English is so particularly fond of?" and I´ll do a dramatic sigh, wink back and say "Yup". :)
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Re: Teachers - Students - Parents - Tutors

#11  Postby cathyincali » Apr 20, 2010 7:17 pm

One of my Korean American students who struggled so much with articles kept hoping for a comprehensive explanation for why we use an article here but not there, and sometimes he almost despaired when I would look over a long college paper and take out a whole lot of articles he shouldn't have used PLUS put in a whole lot of articles he should've used. ...I would remind him, and he could chant along with me, "To get better, read, read, read." But it was pretty frustrating for him.

Finally, after being here for 4 years, he seems to be really getting it, and I have almost no "article edits" for him. (I guess he read, read, read enough by now.)
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Re: Teachers - Students - Parents - Tutors

#12  Postby Cassiopeia » Apr 20, 2010 7:24 pm

cathyincali wrote:One of my Korean American students who struggled so much with articles kept hoping for a comprehensive explanation for why we use an article here but not there, and sometimes he almost despaired when I would look over a long college paper and take out a whole lot of articles he shouldn't have used PLUS put in a whole lot of articles he should've used. ...I would remind him, and he could chant along with me, "To get better, read, read, read." But it was pretty frustrating for him.

Finally, after being here for 4 years, he seems to be really getting it, and I have almost no "article edits" for him. (I guess he read, read, read enough by now.)




Exactly what I always say, "Read, read, read!!" :lol: :thumbup:
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Re: Teachers - Students - Parents - Tutors

#13  Postby Cassiopeia » Apr 20, 2010 7:29 pm

cathyincali wrote:As a tutor, I totally get your frustration. Cassiopeia. I have dealt with some kids who have been totally traumatized by bad school situations or other problems. Actually, I don't usually feel too bad about the parents--of course, it tends to be the caring, motivated parents who spend the time trying to get a good tutor for their children AND to pay the extra money for it as well!

Besides for the private in-the-home tutoring, I tutor and teach classes at a homework center that has a largely Korean American population. Most of the kids were born in the U.S. to Korean-born parents, although perhaps a quarter were born in Korea. The cultural difficulties don't seem as great as those faced by the teacher who works in Thailand, but they are definitely there. Many of the kids have schedules that are packed with academics -- school, extra classes at the homework center, and homework. Many of the kids have short breaks for music lessons, and a few participate in organized sports, but few of them seem to have almost ANY time for play or down-time or, really, simply time that they themselves organize.

Also, the Korean American kids report that they are under quite a bit of pressure for good grades and good test scores.

One thing that I have really found to work with my Korean American students is to be upfront and honest with them about the school system itself. I tell them the ramifications of various sorts of standardized tests, most of which do not affect the students at all except in terms of self-esteem or bragging rights for the parents. I point out that they are pushed so hard for good results because the test results are important to the school, and quite possibly good or bad scores as a group will affect funding and other aspects of the school and therefore their own experience. The kids feel much more relaxed--yet willing to try hard on behalf of the school--when they find out that the scores aren't going to follow them to college or for the rest of their lives.

I asked my most test-nervous kid (age 9) if there were going to be any REALLY bad results if he scored poorly on the upcoming standardized test. He said, very definitely, yes. I pretended to look shocked and said, "Oh, my gosh, your parents are going to rip all your fingernails off?" He laughed a little at my hyperbole and admitted that they wouldn't, and we went through a list of other possible really bad results, and he ended up admitting that all that would happen would be that they would be disappointed, plus maybe he would face a week or two of more checking and double-checking regarding homework. (These kids are already banned from TV and computers and video games during the week, or at least until ALL homework is done, so there isn't a lot of punishment through removing privileges that goes on...) Then I asked if there were going to be any REALLY good results if he scored well, and he right away started thinking hard and had to admit that he would get no cash or fabulous prize, no new responsibilities or privileges, even if he did great...

I also discuss with students the high school exit exam, the SAT tests, and classroom tests. I tell them about the sorts of people who grade the writing portions of standardized tests, and the problems with creating really good multiple choice test items. The fact that I am being completely honest with them doesn't take away all the pressure (nor does it give back to them what I consider a bunch of wasted time--cuz I am very much against most of the testing), but it has really helped their attitudes and even (sometimes) their scores.

One little girl (age 5 or 6) was so blown away by some substantially bad classroom testing (it was super hard in an age-INappropriate way, all on the computer, with a program that would count her wrong and move on to the next question if she took too long, no feedback to parents other than a number score and letter grade, AND the teacher announced her failure in front of the whole class on the assumption that shame would motivate this girl to do better. What it motivated, instead, was a huge retreat from reading and math. She would literally arch her back away from the book, rub her watering eyes, and refuse to even try to read a word, saying, "I can't really see it..." I had to do a lot- lot- lot during a two-week break from school to undo all the bad feelings she had towards school subjects.... But now, age 8, she is super-successful at school and confident as all get-out. (Not just because of me, of course --her caring parents, her wonderful teacher this year, even her cheery little brother all helped in this process. Naturally, I'm not tutoring her any more--she simply doesn't need extra help. Yeah!)

Another boy had me as a tutor in English and another tutor for math. The other tutor (Korean) was harsh in her methods and attitude, and he dreaded the sessions. Every once in a while he would confide in me the insults she showered him with. I told him that he should tell his parents about how she makes him feel (and of course I also told him to please never believe the tutor when she said that he was stupid, because he most definitely wasn't), but he insisted that his father would be disappointed in him if he complained and that Korean students had to put up with insults. Finally, though, after a really bad session, he finally told his father what had been going on, and his father shocked him by ending the contract with that tutor. I couldn't believe how radiant this student's face was as he told me the story--and of course they hired a really good tutor, and the story does have a happy ending.

I find the cultural differences truly interesting, but I see that, no matter what culture parents are from or in, the ones who do a lot of their parenting from a place of worry and fear tend to have more negative results than those who parent from a place of greater confidence. Makes sense!




You really are a great tutor, I enjoyed your post very much!! :cheers: Your students are lucky to have someone like you, a good teacher can truly influence someone for life and change the course of their school career or even help with private problems (parents, first love etc.), and it seems you have already done that many times. Keep up the good work. :grin:
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Re: Teachers - Students - Parents - Tutors

#14  Postby Spearthrower » Apr 21, 2010 1:36 am

cathyincali wrote:One of my Korean American students who struggled so much with articles kept hoping for a comprehensive explanation for why we use an article here but not there, and sometimes he almost despaired when I would look over a long college paper and take out a whole lot of articles he shouldn't have used PLUS put in a whole lot of articles he should've used. ...I would remind him, and he could chant along with me, "To get better, read, read, read." But it was pretty frustrating for him.

Finally, after being here for 4 years, he seems to be really getting it, and I have almost no "article edits" for him. (I guess he read, read, read enough by now.)



Great to see some motivation. Most Thais only read comic books! :doh:
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