Jan 4, 2018

When Students Quit (Bonus: Amusing Pictures)

When Students Quit (Bonus: Amusing Pictures) photo
I do not know why the tapir dreamed of glory.

Teaching English, especially as a private, independent teacher, can be especially challenging for those of us who are more socially sensitive, myself included. When I first came to Japan, I felt certain that if I did everything I could to the best of my ability, I would secure classes with every student who walked in the door and if I failed, it was my fault and mine alone.

All of this, of course, was wrong. 

Reasons for students to turn away are as varied as reasons for them to start classes in the first place, and not everything has to do with the teacher present.

Students may lack motivation, prolonged interest, or financial means, and none of those elements are directly related to the personality or skills of the teacher. Others may have difficulty making time for classes due to busy social schedules, as is common with kids from junior high onward as well as professionals in a number of businesses. Again, nothing a teacher can provide in a trial lesson or two can make up for the demands of the table tennis club or the deadlines set by the vice president of the company.
When Students Quit (Bonus: Amusing Pictures) photo
In the nose of not seeing, eh? Someone could have used a few more English classes...

On the other hand, sometimes the student and teacher may have a personality difference that makes the student uncomfortable enough to leave. In my experience, when the student has made it clear that this is the case, the best thing to do is apologize and bow out gracefully. Attempting to teach a student that has a personal problem with you specifically is often significantly more difficult than finding a new student to fill that spot in your schedule or just making do with a little less. 

When Students Quit (Bonus: Amusing Pictures) photo
How I often feel after an unsuccessful trial lesson.

In the rare case that there is something specific about the teacher that is causing adverse reactions, it is not always easy to ascertain the problem. People in Japan don't always reveal their emotions, especially to a new potential teacher.  When working for a larger company, a trainer or manager should be on hand to discuss any of these issues with a new teacher, but this is not always the case.

The most a teacher on their own can do in this situation without asking the student directly is watch for patterns in the rejecting students. If they all seem to glaze over after a few minutes, you may be talking to quickly, or too much. Ask more questions, give them time to respond, slow your speed, and watch for active engagement. Another option is to practice a lesson on a Japanese friend, who can hopefully then shed some light on where the teaching technique goes awry.

Most importantly, remember that a student who chooses to change teachers or strategies is usually making a decision based on many factors, not just whether or not they like the teacher. You can teach a perfect lesson and still not retain the student due to obstacles outside of your control. Don't give up.
When Students Quit (Bonus: Amusing Pictures) photo
Because flying air attacks of freedom should always come in rainbow. 



A working mom/writer/teacher, Jessica explores her surroundings in Miyagi-ken and Tohoku, enjoying the fun, quirky, and family friendly options the area has to offer.


  • helloalissa

    on Jan 12

    Agreed. As a freelance teacher this hasn't come up as much as I expected, but it's easier to teach when the students and the teacher are relaxed with each other. For me I feel like it's been about taking on the students I want to teach (adult women) instead of teaching any lesson I'm asked me to. Saying no can be hard. If it's fun for you, students tend to enjoy the lessons more as well.

  • JTsuzuki

    on Jan 14

    @helloalissa That makes sense to me, too. Most of the students I've retained were able to relax and focus on communicating well rather than reaching any specific lesson target. Fun is definitely key.