He was a very nice guy, but the worst teacher I’ve ever had. He had a lot to say, but was totally incapable of teaching us.
His major motivation was to teach us his religion and not his language. But that’s not why we were in his classroom. Even worse, he got angry with people who didn’t agree and clearly showed their disinterest to the topics he preferred.
What can you do to get along with teachers like these? You want to learn; you are motivated; you want to move forward. But the teacher does not help:
- He is not motivated himself, or
- he is badly paid and does not invest time, or
- he loves a method that is not yours, or
- he is a strange guy whom you can’t follow, or
whatever may be the reason, you have a hard time learning anything in his class.
Here are five hints on how to really learn and get something out of it:
1. Try to convince him to do it differently.
This may not work, but you can try. You can try to propose a different way of teaching. I have done that several times in my life without success. But it was worth a try.
You can propose newer methods, different ways of explaining grammar, different ways of introducing new vocabulary. Check what other teachers you have had before have done, and propose that.
Be polite and nice! Don’t offend him! If you are in a different culture you should be even more careful. Because it’s really easy in that case for the teacher to be offended. In many cultures, he is a person of authority, and with your proposal you undermine his authority.
But you can try.
[pullquote]You are pretty motivated. But the teacher does not help! What do you do?[/pullquote]
2. Try to change your attitude.
Try to find good things in him (or her). Try to see the nice and positive areas of the teaching. Ask yourself: What is good? What is even excellent? Where can you follow? Concentrate on these areas and ignore the others.
This may not work for everybody. As for me, I can get so upset with the stuff I can’t tolerate that I can’t concentrate on any other thing. But, this reaction may be unfair. The teacher may be okay in many areas, while in others you’re different and have your difficulties. Try to handle them!
You can ask your classmates how they are doing. Do they have different ways to deal with the situation? Do they have ideas? Can you work in groups to improve, to motivate each other, to help? Sometimes you have only two options: You learn the language in this setting or you give up. And the second choice is not a good one.
3. Be aware of cultural differences and change accordingly
The teacher I told you about before came out of war. He had a very hard life and he had managed to get out of it. He wanted to talk about it, but because of his story, he had his problems with another country.
But, some classmates had been in this other country and knew the language (at least a bit) which is quite similar to the we were studying in class. Of course it even helps you to understand faster: similar words, similar grammar, similar pronunciation – but a totally different mindset. In Europe you have this situation between Croatian and Serbian and a bit between Dutch and German.
These differences made the situation understandable and the teacher got more sympathetic. We still had our problems but understood a bit more.
Nevertheless, I quit soon, so this might not help.
4. Try to become a friend of the teacher
Be a friend and understand. Sometimes that changes everything. I tried to be a friend with the teacher which didn’t work out (because of other reasons). But, very often a deeper relationship helps you a lot in getting deeper inside a person’s world.
Cultural differences are important. But people are even more important. In every culture you will find people who are the opposite of their culture – they contradict it: The unorganized German, the Italian that is never spontaneous, the shy French who is afraid of women, the lazy Japanese and so on. And then there are so many people who are a mixture of many cultures.
Another point is the payment: How much does your teacher earn? Is it enough to live or does he need another job? If your teacher only gets the minimum wage of the country, he can’t afford the photocopies you want him to do. He even can’t pay for them in advance assuming that you give him the money back. Some students may not, and then he’d be bankrupt and couldn’t buy food for his children. So you need to help with that if you can.
5. Teach yourself
Take what you get from your teacher and study the material for yourself. And ignore the rest. Forget about it! Try to learn and advance! Find people who can help you. Find a language helper (see here)! Learn on the Internet. Ask people questions about the material your teacher gave you. Check it, control it in other contexts, be proactive.
Go on Facebook and other sites and check if there are language learning groups. Join and help each other. Ask questions. Go on YouTube and look for good videos. Some languages, for example Thai, have tons of good videos – as an introduction but also for advanced learners.
And learn the language: French, English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Hindi, whatever. The methods are similar even though the languages are not …
Summary: What can you do?
- Try to convince him to do it differently. Just try and propose different stuff. It may not work, but you have tried.
- Try to change your attitude. Try to understand, try to find good parts in it.
- Be aware of cultural differences and change accordingly. Do research on the background culture.
- Try to become a friend of the teacher. Again, try to understand, see the person, the background, his family setting, his salary.
- Teach yourself, find a group, find more material, teach yourself with the stuff you got from your teacher and study!
And be successful, don’t give up!