I don’t care if “(S)he’s a pleasure to teach”

I can understand comments like that on handover notes, as long as it isn’t (as it often is) a substitute for things like learning goals and use of English outside the classroom. However, I’ve seen it again and again on student progress reports, including in the guidance on writing them from one school (which I avoided for that reason).

Unless the idea is to describe the progress in his/ her personality, I can see absolutely no excuse for such a comment in an end of term or end of year report. I do, however, have a reason. It’s yet another sign of how much we give attention to everything but student learning.

Or possibly it’s yet another sign of how I don’t quite get normal human communications…

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8 Responses to I don’t care if “(S)he’s a pleasure to teach”

  1. S.V. Lowery says:

    I read it as “this kid is a Golden Retriever,” that is, s/he’s willing, interested, and eager to please. It may not tell you the progress, but coupled with other stuff, it does tell you that you can rely on the student, very helpful, especially in a class where you have some laggards or disruptive types. A Golden always helps calm things down and cheer things up, don’t you agree?

  2. Raymond says:

    If you teach in a high-violence school (after all language teaching happens in more than just private language schools) it is quite often the case that students do not what to be in school at all. I taught in the Bronx (NY city) where the police are actually patrolling the hallways. They are there because students are violent and bring their gang disputes to school with them. Many of those children are not interested in learning anything. In such cases, it is a joy to have a student who is willing to learn and wants to learn. Personality is a factor in learning success….so it is quite appropriate to comment that a student is a pleasure to teach. This is the real world of teaching!

  3. alexcase says:

    Hi Raymond

    In common with 99% of EFL teachers, I have no experience of that situation. However, as good attitude is linked to learning as you’ve said, it should be easy enough to link those things in report and handover notes too, e.g. “Julie has really improved her fluency due to her willingness to speak out” or “Harold always tries hard to re-use new language in classroom communication, and this has been a big influence in helping his progress be the fastest in the class”. I can also see a danger in too directly praising tough students for being cooperative, but as I said that doesn’t come from actual experience…

  4. alexcase says:

    Hi SV

    That definitely sounds like a nice student, but I really wouldn’t want to have that judgement imposed upon me before taking over a class. There is a famous test where teachers were told that random students were high achievers and those students then did actually outperform what you might have expected due to what the teachers thought, with presumably the other students suffering in comparison. I’m quite capable of making such a simple judgement myself, and in the meantime maybe I will be a bit more open minded about the other students.

    It occurs to me that maybe the teacher is trying to reward the student for their good behaviour etc, but as I wrote in my reply to Raymond, I still think there is no reason you can’t link that to learning.

  5. Raymond says:

    Well when you teach in a public school with 6500 kids and you teach 300 a day you will learn how effective such praise can be. In fact the State requires to make such commentary in addition to learning assessment. The State gives us forms where we must assess social and self competence ona variety of issues, so whether you agree or not the State does require such assessments. In a language school you teach a student language for perhaps 90 minutes per week. In a public school we teach our subject but we must also see our students in a variety of issues:perhaps we teach them a second subject, but we must also see them on class trips, when they are crying before getting vaccinations, in detentions and sports days. And public teachers get a much broader view of a student as a whole person.

  6. alexcase says:

    Again, I bow to your knowledge of that kind of situation. However, I think your comment shows even more how different and so therefore almost totally irrelevant it is to almost all EFL situations. In fact, I’m mainly talking about teaching adults. I also wrote that I mean teachers who write that instead of more useful comments, rather than as well as you suggest.

  7. Raymond Rickard says:

    True: But there is also a lot of EFL that happens in public school systems in the US and Canada. And if you teach in a public school in a foreign country as I now do, we have a situation where every student in the country must learn English. The State requires that we assess the whole child and the computer system even has such comments which we assess, as: very good, good, satisfactory, deficient—and every student in the state must be assessed on these topics in every subject. I find that a lot of EFL practitioners in private language schools think their situation is the only type of language teaching and it might be good if they broaden their foundations in pedagogical theory.

    I have taught EFL in private language schools where there was no real assessment to judge what students had learned, there was no attendance policy so many students never came, and there was no policy on what students were required to do and since they did not want to be there they did SUDOKA instead, so a teacher may be rather limited in what they could realistically assess. So, if a teacher makes such a comment, perhaps that is the only comment they can make.

  8. alexcase says:

    The first of those situations is usually called ESL, ESOL or EAL rather than EFL (as hopefully the students don’t think of the main language in the country where they live as “foreign”!), and again they are sufficiently different from actual TEFL that I never write about those situations, though there was a great guest piece on the topic:

    I’ve taught in public and private primary schools (and sometimes secondary schools when I couldn’t avoid it), universities, colleges, companies and language schools of various standards in six countries, and I’ve never had a student who I could only say “A pleasure to teach” about. It is in private language schools with small classes that there is least excuse for this, but it indeed there that you are most likely to only get the information “Nice chatty lady” and then find out in the first five minutes of a cover class that she desperately needs to be able to politely email clients in English.

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