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5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make In Their Child's English Education

Popularity 2Viewed 5259 times 2019-6-19 12:41 |Personal category:Education|System category:News

I've been teaching English in China for about 8 years. I've taught more than 5,000 classes. I've taught thousands of students and hundreds of teachers.

During that time, I've seen some amazing students (and teachers). In fact, the reason I've stayed in China is because of the achievements I've seen with our students. I've seen my students score as high as 1580 (out of 1600) on the SAT. I've seen them score as high as 118 (out of 120) on the TOEFL exam. Our average score for our students who take the SAT is 1530. These scores are high enough to get students accepted to any college in a native English speaking country.

Also, I've seen parents make some huge mistakes regarding their child's English education. 

Here are the top 5 mistakes that I've seen.

1. Many parents in China believe that 'more is good'. 

Jack, a 9 year old boy, studies with me. His mom has him enrolled in 3 different English training centers. He's a good boy and a pretty good student. He can answer a lot of questions in class that others can't. However, his pronunciation isn't very accurate. Also, he always scores about 60-70% on his exams in my class.

Jack's mom is frustrated because he can't score higher. She asked me and my Chinese teaching assistant what she can do. I told her, "He's confused. His teachers have different styles.Teachers are telling him different things. He needs to focus on one method and one teacher. He needs to master what that teacher tells him. I know you want to help him, but, you're giving him too many classes with too many teachers."

The late great industrialist, Andrew Carnegie who built a steel empire, said, "Put all of you eggs in one basket and, focus on that basket." 

Advice: Let your child follow one teacher. Let them master what that teacher teaches them. Make sure that you know their assignments. Don't just let them complete their assignments, but, help them to master them. This is a big key to your child's success in learning English.

2. Parents concern themselves with textbooks that the teacher uses. 

In America, we know that Harvard University and the local community college, use the same textbooks. Textbooks do not teach you anything. Teachers do that. For a professional teacher, the textbook is simply an organized guide to follow. The difference between Harvard and the local community college is the teacher. That's why Harvard is expensive. They hire the best teachers and not because they buy the best textbooks. Anyone can buy a textbook.

Another thing that I've seen is, a lot of parents want to look at and judge the textbooks when they have never learned English themselves. 

When I was in school, I never did well in physics. Thus, if you show me two physics books and asked me which one was the best, I'd have to say, "I don't know." Why? Because I don't know physics. I was never good at it myself. You can't judge the quality of something that you don't know.

Advice: Don't go to a teacher and ask to see their textbook. You must be smarter than that. Go and ask the teacher, 'What are the results that you see from your students?' Don't make yourself look foolish by asking about an English textbook unless you are already fluent in English yourself. If you're already fluent, you already know that it's the teacher that makes the difference and not the textbook.

3. Some parents interfere or won't cooperate with the teacher while the teacher is trying to help that parent's child.

Since I came to China in 2011, I've heard some questions from a few parents that were quite baffling. Questions like, 'why do you use these kinds of chairs in the classroom?' or, 'why does the class last so long?', or, 'why is the class so short', or, one of the most confusing, 'why can't my kid speak English?' (when, in fact, they've only been taking classes for 6-12 months.) One parent got angry because I wouldn't go to the store and buy him a chair to sit in while he waited on his child in the hallway outside of the class. (Hint: Most parents don't wait in the hallway for 1.5-2 hours while their kid attends class.)

It isn't very intelligent to cause trouble for someone who is trying to help your child. I'm always amazed when I see this kind of parent.

"So, why can't my kid speak English?"

Your child didn't learn to speak Chinese when they were 6-12 months old even though they lived in a Chinese speaking environment. English teachers (including native speaking English teachers like myself) cannot do magic in order to get your child speaking English. 

Any experienced language teacher knows that the most important thing is to put the child in an English speaking environment in order to get a lot of input. No one can master a language that is taught largely in their native tongue.

I teach two middle school classes every week. My middle school students do not need much translation. One reason that so many students fail in learning English is because they've only been taught about English from a teacher who can't speak English. They never actually learned English as a language to be used.

Advice: Realize that it isn't very smart to interfere with the one person who cares about your child's English education almost as much as you do. Your child's teacher is trying to help you by helping your child. Cooperate with your child's teacher so that you can help your child with the teacher's help and expertise.

4. Parents make decisions about their child's English education based on fear and what others tell them rather than on logic, intelligence, knowledge and common sense.

Fear is a great motivator. I've often seen training schools use it in order to get parents to join their school and pay them a lot of money. You should never make decisions about your child's education based on fear or what someone told you. You need to get involved with your child enough to make rational, clear, intelligent decisions about their education.

Recently, Matt, one of my students decided to quit my class. I rarely have students who quit my classes. When we asked his mother why he was quitting, she said, "His teacher at school said that he can't learn English from a foreign teacher." We thought that she was kidding, but, she was quite serious. 

I can assure you that I won't be asking a native English speaker to teach me Chinese. I want a native Chinese speaking teacher because I want to actually learn to use Chinese.

Advice: It doesn't have to be a native speaker, but, your child needs a teacher who speaks as well as a native English speaker. If you are only concerned about your child's scores in school, then, don't waste your time and money on getting an English teacher who speaks fluently. If you want your child to actually master English and be able to use it, then, you need a person who can speak English fluently. 

5. Parents don't focus on the ultimate goal for their child.

Unless you only want your child to get high scores on English exams and don't care if they really learn English, then you don't need to have a goal in mind for your child's future. 

Last week, a parent came for an interview for our classes. We only accept students whose parents have a goal in mind for their child. That goal is that they want their kid to master English. We teach students from 5 years old through high school age. 

This parent brought her daughter because she liked the idea that a foreigner was teaching her. However, when we started talking about the SAT, (Meiguo gaokao), she was confused. She had never considered her ultimate goal for her child. We tell such a parent to go and think about what they want for their child. We won't accept the child as our student unless the parent has the right goal in mind for their child. Does she have hopes of her child studying abroad someday? Does she want her child to master English or just get high scores on the exam? 

Advice: These are important questions that must be answered. Know what you want for your child and find a way to make a plan.

These are the 5 most common mistakes that I've seen Chinese parents make. I hope that you aren't also making these mistakes. If you are, you need to make a change for the sake of your child and their future.

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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Reply Report cmknight 2019-6-24 02:07
You are saying the same thing that many of us have said for years. I have had many conversations like this with parents, myself, and they usually end with the parent saying something like, "This is China. We do things differently here."
Reply Report MichaelM 2019-6-24 03:06
cmknight: You are saying the same thing that many of us have said for years. I have had many conversations like this with parents, myself, and they usually end  ...
Parents who do these things are sabotaging their own kids' success. It's not a matter of just doing something differently. It is a matter of what is best for the child. I make it easy for myself. I interview parents and do what I can to find out who thinks this way before letting their child study with me. I simply deny them entry into my class. This means that about half of them won't be admitted. I'm intent on excellence and success. I can find and have found enough parents who are smarter than this.
Reply Report mbursian 2019-6-24 10:09
Well said. Michael... and very true, as well.
Reply Report cmknight 2019-6-26 07:00
Yes, I agree. They ARE sabotaging their own kids' success. However, they don't see it that way, and no matter how many times you tell them they are sabotaging their kids' success, they still insist on memorization to learn English, and that their kid will do as they say, full stop! They are the parents and "they know what's best for their child!" I taught in China for 11 years. 6 1/2 of them at the university level. You and I probably have many very similar stories.
Reply Report MichaelM 2019-6-26 09:08
cmknight: Yes, I agree. They ARE sabotaging their own kids' success. However, they don't see it that way, and no matter how many times you tell them they are sa ...
The good news is, I have found many who don't do that. If I couldn't find those, I'd throw up my hands and go back to my comfortable life in the USA.
Reply Report MichaelM 2019-6-26 09:10
mbursian: Well said. Michael... and very true, as well.
Thank you. I just do what I can to make a difference for the few parents who actually 'get it'.

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Michael is the author of the transformational book, Powerful Attitudes. He is a professional educator, an educational consultant, an author. He lives in Zhengzhou, Henan Province. He enjoys playing guitar and writing poetry. He loves China.


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