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how to handle an awkward teaching situation?

 
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henryworldus



Joined: 18 Sep 2007
Posts: 7

PostPosted: Fri Feb 29, 2008 5:15 am    Post subject: how to handle an awkward teaching situation? Reply with quote

I have taught Business English in China for two years. I always explain at the first class that my teaching focuses on business communication. (I was a public communication major.)

However, sometimes, some students intentionally or unintentionally change the focus. For instance, when they are doing some exercises to learn how to use the words "increase" or "decrease" to describe changes, some active students may raise their hands and say, “In so and so situation, the bank should increase the interest rate. It is based on whatever financial theory. So the teacher’s answer, “decrease” is not correct.” The other students may support them and wait for me to offer a more powerful opposing theory. Or in some other occasions, the other student may debate against them. The language changes from English to Chinese of course.

I am in a very awkward situation and cannot control the classroom. Even though I try my best to make preparations, it is impossible for me to learn all the business theories. It looks like the students think the teacher knows less than them. I wonder what is the best way to handle these situations.
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blackmagicABC



Joined: 18 Feb 2008
Posts: 37
Location: Taiwan

PostPosted: Fri Feb 29, 2008 7:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Communication does not happen in a vacuum but in context. You shouldn't try to create a context that is incorrect because it is confusing. Therefore you should stay away from examples that could evoke unnecesary debate.
Guiding these convesations would be very important.
As an example.
If there is an influx of foreign capital into the country the Reserve/Central bank should increase/decrease the interest rate."
This is a bad example because it is open to discussion and bound to be debated. In heated debates the students are very likely fall back to their native language.
If you then tell them that one answer is correct and one is incorrect, you are wrong because you are removing the context from the situation and only allowing them to analyze one sentence out of context.
Adding "Explain your answer" would give them ample opportunity to speak English as well as learn that words in context mean more than words alone.
If you are purely teaching the words then use examples that can not be debated. If there are more sellers than buyers in a market the price of the commodity/product should (increase/decrease).
The answer is obvious and those that want to debate around the odd occasion when the obvious is not true need to look at the word "should". (as in your example as well)
This way you would be able to control the class much better. I never teach or assign a teacher to a business class that does not have some knowledge of the industry of the students. This avoids situations like this. If they are all bankers then read a book or two on banking.
As business professionals most of your students would be your senior and mutual respect should make it clear that as a communication professional you are their senior.
I am not judging your ability in fact I think you are probably very good, I just think you may be better of reading a little on their area of speciality to improve your ability to teach in their context rather than completely avoid it.
Don't be like me though. I taught a group of Chinese "traditional" doctors and for preparation read a book about Chinese medicine. I have now read four and my wife said if I read another one she is going to close my school and turn it into a clinic.
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harmony



Joined: 12 Sep 2006
Posts: 34
Location: Oman

PostPosted: Sat May 17, 2008 5:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello Henryworldus:

Although the previous poster has a point in that it always helps to know the subject via some reading, it is somewhat impractical to expect a language teacher to be knowledgeable about the various aspects of business she is liable to encounter.

Nor do I feel that it is either wise or possible to limit your teaching to topics that don't lead to debate. Any topic can lead to debate, especially if you have students who like debating.

I recommend that you embrace the fact that, it being their major, it is natural that they know more of the subject than you do. Rather than compete with them, emphasize the fact that you are the expert in English. If they feel the need to show off their own knowlege, let them see who can explain the subject to you in the best English or, if they are die hard debaters, set up a debate using English by giving them some of the needed structures and phrases. In either case, allow your ability to assist and advise using Eglish to be the area where your own knowledge shines and you will likely get more respect. Much of this does, however, depend on their ability level in English.)

It could very well be that there are other factors in play in this situation such as their own perceived need to, or interest in, studying English.

Hope this is helpful.

Good luck
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strider



Joined: 17 Jan 2003
Posts: 160
Location: France

PostPosted: Thu May 22, 2008 1:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As they say, is this a problem or an opportunity?

Why not split the class into 2 parts, those that support this idea and those who oppose it? The 2 teams take turns to present the idea and try to convince the others? Or how about assigning the subject for homework, 3 paragraphs on defining the idea, presenting it and saying why they think it is right?

In these situations, you exploit your skills as a teacher/ facilitator. (It also buys you some time if you want to find a quick answer on Wikipedia!)

One of the hardest things to do in Business English is get students talking - It would be a pity to let an opportunity like this go by.
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
Posts: 3005
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2008 12:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Probably the best type of teacher for Business English classes in China would be a formerly somewhat high-powered businessman, now retired and "wanting to put something back" (i.e. who has had a mid-life career change aka a crisis), competent to fluent in Chinese (incl. Business Chinese) etc etc...but how many are there like that?

Sorry if I'm stating the obvious. Smile
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Eric18



Joined: 18 May 2007
Posts: 151
Location: Los Angeles, California

PostPosted: Mon Aug 18, 2008 2:43 am    Post subject: Push yourself - and learn from your students Reply with quote

You seem to have fallen into what I consider a "good mistake" for English teachers - feeling the need to pretend to know more than we do under the guise of "classroom management."

Content is king, and they know more about international business than you do. That's not a challenge, but an invitation.

Acknowledge that reality, push yourself to read more of primary sources, and learn from your students. Stay curious, engage your students, and challenge them to share their knowledge with you - in English. You will expand your understanding of our fascinating world, and they will listen more to your focused feedback. I find treating students as peers and exchanging information leads to a far more fascinating classroom situations - and creates a far better learning environment.

As the great philosopher Maimodes advised so long ago, "teach the tongue to say 'I do not know."

Or so it seems to me.
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alexcase



Joined: 07 Mar 2004
Posts: 97
Location: Tokyo

PostPosted: Wed Sep 24, 2008 11:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would say: elicit the example sentences from the students rather than giving them yourself, by asking things like "Tell me something that is increasing in your area of business", and stimulate and use that desire to debate but limit it to English with controlled questions such as "Do we all agree that increase is true for this sentence?" or "How can we change the sentence so that decrease is true instead?"

TEFLtastic blog- http://tefltastic.wordpress.com


Last edited by alexcase on Mon Oct 14, 2013 6:20 am; edited 1 time in total
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eslweb



Joined: 31 May 2006
Posts: 208
Location: United Kingdom

PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 11:46 am    Post subject: Be Honest and move on... Reply with quote

Its always difficult when you are not 100% confident in your subject, but on this occassion I'd suggest telling the class that its an interesting point and appoint somebody to research it for the next lesson. Praise them for picking up on the use of the word, remind them that they are supposed to be using English and move onto the next point.

James

P.S. If you want some more resources, there's plenty in the business section of my site: http://www.jamesabela.co.uk/bus/ (And more coming soon once I've cleaned them up.)
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sollettspain



Joined: 30 May 2009
Posts: 8
Location: spain

PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2009 9:33 am    Post subject: classroom management Reply with quote

I think that here we have an interesting place where language and culture meet, perhaps uncomfortably.
For a teacher to say "I don't know. I'll research it and cover it next week" may be unacceptable in the part of Chinese culture you are working in.

In Spain, I'd have no problem offering that position. My expertise is the language - and I take it that is what you are contracted to teach.
That <i>language</i> is the content of the course. You are not employed to deliver specialist knowledge seminars on International Banking, and you should not feel any need to apologise for this.
That said, learning from your students and reading up on Banking will inform your classes, make you more confident, and possibly motivate your students. They may enjoy recommending books for you to research, and then work on together.
I have never taught English in the Far East, and so I'm hesitant to suggest British classroom protocols. Sometimes we try and apply a European Solution to a Far East (or North American) problem, and the results don't fit our expectations.

Useful also for your students to have an awareness of the business/learning culture in Northern Europe compared and contrasted with Chinese processes.
As they've studied for MBAs it's possible they've got experience of other learning environments, and less 'hierarchical by age', which I understand can dominate in the Far East.
Bringing this theme into the lesson as a vocabulary <i>language/culture</i> , looking at HR terms such as status, emotional capital, glass ceilings, performance based management, hierarchical management.



I'm sure you'll find challenging strategies for this group of individuals.
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sollettspain



Joined: 30 May 2009
Posts: 8
Location: spain

PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2009 9:37 am    Post subject: classroom management Reply with quote

I think that here we have an interesting place where language and culture meet, perhaps uncomfortably.
For a teacher to say "I don't know. I'll research it and cover it next week" may be unacceptable in the part of Chinese culture you are working in.

In Spain, I'd have no problem offering that position. My expertise is the language - and I take it that is what you are contracted to teach.
That <i>language</i> is the content of the course. You are not employed to deliver specialist knowledge seminars on International Banking, and you should not feel any need to apologise for this.
That said, learning from your students and reading up on Banking will inform your classes, make you more confident, and possibly motivate your students. They may enjoy recommending books for you to research, and then work on together.
I have never taught English in the Far East, and so I'm hesitant to suggest British classroom protocols. Sometimes we try and apply a European Solution to a Far East (or North American) problem, and the results don't fit our expectations.

Useful also for your students to have an awareness of the business/learning culture in Northern Europe compared and contrasted with Chinese processes.
As they've studied for MBAs it's possible they've got experience of other learning environments, and less 'hierarchical by age', which I understand can dominate in the Far East.
Bringing this theme into the lesson as a vocabulary <i>language/culture</i> , looking at HR terms such as status, emotional capital, glass ceilings, performance based management, hierarchical management.



I'm sure you'll find challenging strategies for this group of individuals.
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eslweb



Joined: 31 May 2006
Posts: 208
Location: United Kingdom

PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2009 11:09 am    Post subject: Chinese customs.... Reply with quote

That procedure is fine with most students. If you teach Chinese students and they are worried about loss of face then they will ask you individually at the end of class. It tends to be the more outgoing students who will ask you such questions in front of the class.

I am afraid if you don't know the answer to the question, you lose some face any which way and so it is best to be honest about what you know and don't know, because if they find out you gave a wrong answer then that trust is completely broken. I've seen that on more than one occasion and they never trust that teacher again. All because the teacher refused to admit they didn't know in the first place.

If you really don't want to lose face then there is only ONE answer. Make sure you do your prep and know your subject thoroughly Wink

James
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