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Ways to be More Humorous in Class
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twilothunder



Joined: 09 Dec 2011
Posts: 442

PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 10:53 am    Post subject: Re: Ways to be More Humorous in Class Reply with quote

chryanvii wrote:


1. If the students have multiple teachers, you can pick on your colleagues [Tom is bald...Johnny is Fat] [this one was suggested by my supervisor]

2. You can pick on yourself [I am really tall...I am really ugly]

3. You can ask someone about their boyfriend/girlfriend [even if they don't have one] or if they are married [young students]


Genuinely terrible advice, especially the first one.

The second one is okay - you can be self-deprecating - but ONLY when students know you are a good teacher. For instance, there has been occasion when I have deadpanned to students who have asked an obscure question... "I don't know the answer to that... I have failed you... I am a bad teacher" but that was only after building up months of rapport with them. If you said it during your first class they would take you at your word.

The third one - yeah, creepy.

Chinese people love puns and slapstick (as probably most people around the world do). Puns are doable, but they need to have a GOOD command of English vocabulary (or you need to have a strong command of Chinese, which you probably aren't allowed to use in class anyway). Slapstick not so much. If you fall off your chair, they'll just think you're an imbecile.

I stick to topical stuff. Read the papers, learn about their culture, try to make non-offensive comments that people will chuckle at. For example, today is Singles' Day but everyone is on Taobao looking for the 11/11 special offers. So with my first class today I said "Why is today special?" Many said "Singles Day", one knowledgeable student even said "Remembrance Day". I just replied "No, it's because I managed to get three bags of coffee half price on Taobao." One girl, a fashionista came in half an hour late and I just said "Ah, finished your shopping already?"

Not side-splittingly Richard Pryor funny but good enough to get laughs out of the class and create a nice atmosphere.
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chryanvii



Joined: 19 Jul 2009
Posts: 98

PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 4:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the advice, guys. Before I took this job, I was told that I could have a chance at getting a salary increase after 3 months probation period, since I already have worked for the company for one year [in a different city].

I was recently told that I was not going to get the increase. Even though it is not so much money [500 RMB extra a month], it is a morale killer...especially since they have said that you have to be "really awesome" in order to get a pay increase. I assume that by "really awesome", they mean a good joke-teller.

I also have been told that they have not renewed some teacher contracts at this particular training center in Chongqing, because the teachers were not popular enough among the students [which really bothers me]. One teacher begged to come back after his contract was not renewed, but wasn't given any pay increase.

I am thinking about resigning, since my lease will expire near the end of December anyway [I have pulled 4 months here]. In addition, my life hasn't been moving as quickly in Chongqing as I expected it to. This city is quite strange...it's too much like Shanghai in many aspects, and doesn't seem to have the feeling of a special Chinese city, as I initially envisioned [at least in the part of the city where I live, which I must say is considerably boring]. There really are a lot of foreigners here, and even though the number is fewer than in Shanghai, it seems much more noticeable to me [I lived in Shanghai for 3 months too].

I believe that I would enjoy the life in a smaller city in China, where I can experience more of the "authentic" China. I just don't think working at a shopping mall was what I had in mind as a real Chinese experience. In addition, my feeling is that the people in a smaller city are a little bit more genuine, and the management of training centers in smaller cities put a little less pressure on the foreign teachers compared to a big city.

Anyway, let me know your thoughts and opinions. After having taught at universities for the past 3 years, I would say that this is the way to go in China [either that or a university again]
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johntpartee



Joined: 02 Mar 2010
Posts: 3204

PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 5:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have NEVER cared about my popularity (or lack of same) with students. I'm an English teacher, I teach English. If that's not good enough for the school, so be it. I've never been told I wouldn't be renewed, though, every time I've left a place it has been of my own volition.
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Bud Powell



Joined: 11 Jul 2013
Posts: 832

PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 10:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think that what everyone is trying to tell the OP is that the teacher should have an engaging personality that makes an otherwise un-fun subject worth studying or (at least) paying attention for in class. This requires development. Some people develop an engaging personality at a very early age in response to a supportive environment. Others learn it through a process of many years in which they learn to survive socially and get ahead.

I taught inner-city seventh and eighth grade for several years in the U.S.. For me, it was a matter of survival. I had to develop certain physical cues that told the students that something REALLY interesting was about to be said. I also used irony in class. For example, in American History (I didn't just teach English), I told the class NOT to remember that the Battle of New Orleans was fought AFTER the Treaty of Ghent was signed and after the War of 1812 officially ended.

I told each one "DO NOT remember this fact." They didn't need to know it. I wrote it on the board and specifically reminded the class to forget the fact. I walked down the rows of desks and asked "Are YOU going to remember that?"

--- Nope

How about YOU?

--- What fact?

The fact appeared on the test as an extra point question, and all but one student provided the correct response. That student came to me at lunch time to tell me that she thought that it was a trick to take points off, so she didn't answer it. She got the extra points.

That's my personality in class. Sometimes I act a little crazy, but I get my point across.

Class time doesn't have to be Joke Time, and some teachers think that a clownish presentation can replace effective pedagogy. Humor has its place in class. One must know when to use it and when to recognize a humorous situation in class and capitalize on it for the sake of getting a point across and for the sake of engaging the class.

I'm not always very humorous in class. There are some things that don't require a humorous presentation. There are other forms of creativity besides humor, and I use them, and I encourage my students to be creative.

In my first Oral English class, a university student told me (in very good English) that she wouldn't answer any of my questions in class because she hated speaking English. Her assignment for the next class was to tell the class why she hates English in the space of three minutes.

She did it and expected me to assign her a failing grade. Her grade was a B+. She was shocked when she saw the evaluation, my comments, and the grade. She expected an F.

I turned an act of defiance into a learning experience.
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twilothunder



Joined: 09 Dec 2011
Posts: 442

PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 11:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bud Powell wrote:

I told the class NOT to remember that the Battle of New Orleans was fought AFTER the Treaty of Ghent was signed and after the War of 1812 officially ended.

I told each one "DO NOT remember this fact." They didn't need to know it. I wrote it on the board and specifically reminded the class to forget the fact. I walked down the rows of desks and asked "Are YOU going to remember that?"

--- Nope

How about YOU?

--- What fact?

The fact appeared on the test as an extra point question, and all but one student provided the correct response. That student came to me at lunch time to tell me that she thought that it was a trick to take points off, so she didn't answer it. She got the extra points.

That's my personality in class. Sometimes I act a little crazy, but I get my point across.



Also ridiculous.
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doogsville



Joined: 17 Nov 2011
Posts: 560
Location: China

PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 1:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

twilothunder wrote:
Bud Powell wrote:

I told the class NOT to remember that the Battle of New Orleans was fought AFTER the Treaty of Ghent was signed and after the War of 1812 officially ended.

I told each one "DO NOT remember this fact." They didn't need to know it. I wrote it on the board and specifically reminded the class to forget the fact. I walked down the rows of desks and asked "Are YOU going to remember that?"

--- Nope

How about YOU?

--- What fact?

The fact appeared on the test as an extra point question, and all but one student provided the correct response. That student came to me at lunch time to tell me that she thought that it was a trick to take points off, so she didn't answer it. She got the extra points.

That's my personality in class. Sometimes I act a little crazy, but I get my point across.



Also ridiculous.


I don't see why, perhaps you could elaborate? It sounds like a good technique for getting people to think about and remember things to me. I wouldn't use it very often, but the more arrows you have in your quiver the more chance you have of hitting the target.
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roadwalker



Joined: 24 Aug 2005
Posts: 1419
Location: Ch

PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 2:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

chryanvii wrote:
Thanks for the advice, guys. Before I took this job, I was told that I could have a chance at getting a salary increase after 3 months probation period, since I already have worked for the company for one year [in a different city].

I was recently told that I was not going to get the increase. Even though it is not so much money [500 RMB extra a month], it is a morale killer...especially since they have said that you have to be "really awesome" in order to get a pay increase. I assume that by "really awesome", they mean a good joke-teller.

I also have been told that they have not renewed some teacher contracts at this particular training center in Chongqing, because the teachers were not popular enough among the students [which really bothers me]. One teacher begged to come back after his contract was not renewed, but wasn't given any pay increase.

I am thinking about resigning, since my lease will expire near the end of December anyway [I have pulled 4 months here]. In addition, my life hasn't been moving as quickly in Chongqing as I expected it to. This city is quite strange...it's too much like Shanghai in many aspects, and doesn't seem to have the feeling of a special Chinese city, as I initially envisioned [at least in the part of the city where I live, which I must say is considerably boring]. There really are a lot of foreigners here, and even though the number is fewer than in Shanghai, it seems much more noticeable to me [I lived in Shanghai for 3 months too].

I believe that I would enjoy the life in a smaller city in China, where I can experience more of the "authentic" China. I just don't think working at a shopping mall was what I had in mind as a real Chinese experience. In addition, my feeling is that the people in a smaller city are a little bit more genuine, and the management of training centers in smaller cities put a little less pressure on the foreign teachers compared to a big city.

Anyway, let me know your thoughts and opinions. After having taught at universities for the past 3 years, I would say that this is the way to go in China [either that or a university again]


A smaller city might provide less pressure to entertain, especially with a much smaller foreigner base to draw from. But that pressure will probably never go away completely, especially when teaching worn down kids after their long school days. But how many schools have you checked out in Chongqing? Maybe there is one or two that are more in line with your style than the current one is. Personally I like the smaller cities that are near enough to the big cities for an occasional day/weekend away. Best of both worlds if chosen well.

Yeah, I'd say it's a morale killer to be told you didn't make the bonus cut and that you aren't funny enough etc. That's another reason not to experiment with jokes about teachers and/or students: the students may remember something or misremember something you said and have their morale killed in the process. It's also hard to know when to let something slide or when to take it as constructive criticism. I've been told from students in the same (uni) class that "we all think you are boring" and "we all love you and your teaching." The 'too boring' comments are never followed up with any other advice than to 'play (more) games'. I think it's better to be clear on what you are trying to teach in that lesson and then try to figure out more engaging, as someone mentioned, ways to teach it. Sometimes I win. Sometimes the nice/terrible weather wins. Sometimes the stomach clocks win. Stay positive.
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thechangling



Joined: 11 Apr 2013
Posts: 76

PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 3:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Personally I like the smaller cities that are near enough to the big cities for an occasional day/weekend away. Best of both worlds if chosen well".

I think that quote really sums up the difference between having a good work and social situation and a poorer one because smaller cities are usually easier to live and work in and socially isolating, but having a bigger city nearby can offer so much more socially or even with a second job on the side. That scenario worked well for me in Taiwan and South Korea but not in China thus far as it's much bigger and concentrations of foreigners for socialising (read: playing footy and going to bars etc) seems to be that much more sporadic.
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johntpartee



Joined: 02 Mar 2010
Posts: 3204

PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 4:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I told each one "DO NOT remember this fact."


When Freud and his brother were boys they started a club; prospective members were told they were accepted if they were able to NOT think of a white bear for ten minutes. The ones who said they were successful did not become members. Try it.

Now if this would only work for EVERYTHING we do in class........
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twilothunder



Joined: 09 Dec 2011
Posts: 442

PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 8:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

doogsville wrote:
twilothunder wrote:
Bud Powell wrote:

I told the class NOT to remember that the Battle of New Orleans was fought AFTER the Treaty of Ghent was signed and after the War of 1812 officially ended.

I told each one "DO NOT remember this fact." They didn't need to know it. I wrote it on the board and specifically reminded the class to forget the fact. I walked down the rows of desks and asked "Are YOU going to remember that?"

--- Nope

How about YOU?

--- What fact?

The fact appeared on the test as an extra point question, and all but one student provided the correct response. That student came to me at lunch time to tell me that she thought that it was a trick to take points off, so she didn't answer it. She got the extra points.

That's my personality in class. Sometimes I act a little crazy, but I get my point across.



Also ridiculous.


I don't see why, perhaps you could elaborate? It sounds like a good technique for getting people to think about and remember things to me. I wouldn't use it very often, but the more arrows you have in your quiver the more chance you have of hitting the target.


While I am aware that testing is not the be all and end all of education, if your approach throws a student into not knowing how to appropriately respond on an a summative test then it's not really ideal is it?
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Miajiayou



Joined: 30 Apr 2011
Posts: 283
Location: Nanjing

PostPosted: Wed Nov 13, 2013 10:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've been at the same school for quite a few years. Sometimes I'm the favorite FT, sometimes I'm not. I've never changed my teaching style. It can be rough to have a fellow teacher who is naturally very funny and a little off-the-wall. Students really love those teachers because their lives are so darn boring. But, while I can often get the students laughing, I'm not a comedian. And, like someone else said, if I ever TRY to be funny, its a disaster. Luckily, I've never actually gotten complaints. I would be furious if my boss had the nerve to say I wasn't interesting enough and should start talking about how fat or bald my colleagues are.

There are ways to be interesting and engaging without being funny. I suggest working on building a relationship with your students. It might take awhile and it might not even happen this year, since you seem to have started off on the wrong foot and Chinese students are quick to judge but slow to change their minds. Just talk to them. When you laugh or smile, make sure it is genuine. Talk to them about your personal life (within reason of course - leave out your love life) and ask them about theirs (ditto). It may not be what is recommended by the Very Professional Serious Teachers on this board, but I've found it to be a good way to engage the students without being a dancing monkey.
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Bud Powell



Joined: 11 Jul 2013
Posts: 832

PostPosted: Wed Nov 13, 2013 3:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh my.

Last edited by Bud Powell on Wed Nov 13, 2013 3:54 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Bud Powell



Joined: 11 Jul 2013
Posts: 832

PostPosted: Wed Nov 13, 2013 3:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are ways to be interesting and engaging without being funny. I suggest working on building a relationship with your students. It might take awhile and it might not even happen this year, since you seem to have started off on the wrong foot and Chinese students are quick to judge but slow to change their minds. Just talk to them. When you laugh or smile, make sure it is genuine.

I agree. The relationship (real or imagined) can float or sink a class.
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Bud Powell



Joined: 11 Jul 2013
Posts: 832

PostPosted: Wed Nov 13, 2013 3:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

While I am aware that testing is not the be all and end all of education, if your approach throws a student into not knowing how to appropriately respond on an a summative test then it's not really ideal is it?

You missed the point.

May I ask how long you have been teaching and your area of study?
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chryanvii



Joined: 19 Jul 2009
Posts: 98

PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2013 3:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ouch! I was just let go by the school! Never in my life did I think that I would be let go from an ESL teaching job in China, as I always prepare well for my classes, show up on time, and work very hard outside of class to revise the materials to make them more engaging.

I see it as kind of a special gift: I don't think that Chongqing is really suitable for me, as I haven't been exceptionally happy here, and it's too big. Maybe I am a small city person. Maybe I am also a little unlucky.

But...I think that I am just in time to be able to apply for a January/February start at a university. Maybe take off for Japan for a couple weeks?

Anyway, has this ever happened to anybody else? Should I see it as a sign that I shouldn't be teaching ESL anymore, or just as a small "hump" along the road? After all, I have a degree in Landscape Architecture [but has remained unused since 2009, with no skill sets in this field].

I think I might have at least learned some things that might be helpful for the future. In addition, the training center life is completely different from university life. You never know what students might say to the tutors about you, and anything and everything goes straight back to your supervisor [and hence the head office]. In fact, I think the tutors are the real teachers at training centers anyway [at least at this training center].

Quite frankly, since I have been teaching at university for the past 3 years, I find it quite difficult to re-adjust to the corporate/training center lifestyle. They can be quite demanding, depending on which kind of center you work for, and which city you live in.

One last question...why do the Chinese tutors at training centers not get so much pressure to be humorous? It seems to me that several of them are quite monotonous and serious in nature.
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