Sunday, 13 December 2015

Wandering Misfit: Part 21 ... not with a bang but with a whisper

     As promised today we are going to delve deep into the chaos that is teaching English in a Chinese primary school.

     One of the best stories I remember was the first day I had a new T.A. for the primary school. When I first started teaching there I had a male T.A. who was normally pretty good but the primary school classes just ruined him. This is a man who 6 months later would end up managing one of our satellite schools literally brought to tears on several occasions by an unruly bunch of 11 year old children.

     That's why when I was told I was getting a different T.A. I was both relieved and worried. When they told me it was a T.A. who had literally finished her training only the week before my heart sank.

     When we headed out to classes that Thursday I was determined to be firmer with the class, the last thing I wanted was this young, shy T.A. being so demoralized that she up and quit (a response I really thought possible).

     Before I go on I should maybe admit that within the next 12 months this same T.A. would go on to be one of the best I've ever met. I've only ever seen her raise her voice once in all the time I've known her (but that is a whole other story) and yet she demands respect from her students.

     So in we walked and surprise, surprise the kids were going crazy. As soon as they noticed the change in T.A. they got even louder and their behaviour got worse. At this point I decided to take matters into my own hands and started yelling at the kids to sit down and shut up. As I've said before I am not particularly good at this and to be honest it has never worked for me.

     In this particular class, the first of three every Thursday, there was one girl that pretty much ran the show. She was the real ringleader but catching her doing anything wrong was nearly impossible. She had basically made an art form out of causing chaos and not being implicated when it all went south.

     Now even as I started to get flustered and run out of voice the new T.A. just turned to me and asked if she could have a couple of minutes. Sure I told her knowing that tirades and threats from other T.A.s had completely failed to have any impact in the past.

     Instead of yelling or banging the ruler on the big metal desk she quietly slipped into the rows between the seats heading straight for little miss trouble maker. Apparently in less than five minutes she had already figured the pattern out and was headed straight for it's source.

     As she reached the girl's desk the class started to quieten down, it seems just like me they were waiting to see what was about to happen. So Susan (the T.A.) bends down so her mouth is right beside the girl's ear and she stands there for a couple minutes just whispering to her.

     Even as I watched the girl's face just seemed to crumple in on itself and in less than a minute the girl was sobbing. Not yelling or crying out loud, not even crocodile tears but that slow sob that you know will last for a while.

     Slowly and gently Susan pulled her to her feet and told her to stand in the aisle. After that the class was much more subdued. Don't get me wrong it didn't turn them into little angels but one good look from Susan was enough to quieten them down most of the time.

     After the class (40 minutes later) the rest of the kids went to break but the trouble maker was still in the aisle sobbing. Susan went over and had a chat with her and the girl seemed to brighten up a bit but was far from her usual obnoxious self.

     As we were leaving later on that day I asked Susan what she'd said but she point blank refused to tell me. In fact I never did find out what it was she had whispered in the girl's ear that day. All I know is that from that point on not only did the students learn to respect this shy young lady but the foreign teachers did too.

     Rory McDonald is an online marketer and digital entrepreneur, co-founder of the Online Business Expert and passionate blogger. 

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