Sharing how teachers make a bad impression: unappreciated recommendations

Yesterday I had a teacher who really managed to get off to a bad start with me by making a recommendation too early, before she hardly had a clue about me. I realized that for me, one of the biggest mistakes a teacher can make is to assume they know what I need and to prematurely tell me what I should be focusing on.

The lesson began with a very brief conversation about where we were from and then she asked me what I wanted to do.  I explained the activity I wanted to do-- one designed to give me a lot of practice speaking.  She told me that before we did that she wanted to recommend that I plan to take a lesson specifically to work on my ¨rr¨ sound. The woman had not asked a SINGLE QUESTION (other than where I lived) before she made a recommendation to me about what I should spend my time on!   (I wanted to say ¨Do you have any idea how old I was when I started learning this language and how many sessions I have worked on my rr´s already?  Other native Spanish speakers tell me my pronunciation is quite easy to understand inspite of my accent and my slightly gringo  ¨rr.¨  My ¨rr¨does not cause nearly the difficulties with understanding like grammatical errors can.  I want to get more comfortable and fluid when speaking-- not have a perfrect ¨rr.¨)

I also have had many teachers who seem to feel compelled to have something planned and very often their recommended first lesson plan is not helpful because they do not yet know what my goals are and what my abilities are.  I find it frustrating to explain to teachers that my strengths are reading, listening, and writing and my need is for speaking practice,  and then to have them recommend I read an article to them that they have chosen.  (In writing this I am starting to wonder if when I say ¨want help with speaking¨ they think I mean ¨want help with pronunciation.¨)

I have also have had teachers recommend books and articles to me that they enjoy, with no inquiry into my interests.  Recently, a new Spanish teacher of mine recommended I read a book by Oscar Wilde.  It was the Spanish translation--- but if he knew me he would have known: 1 Fiction from the 1800´s usually does not appeal to me.  2  I want recommendations of books written originally in Spanish.  I am pretty sure Oscar Wilde wrote in English!

Have you also had recommendations that annoyed you, insulted you, or that lowered your respect for a teacher? 

My hope is teachers reading this will find some of the feedback helpful as they consider what, when, and how much they recommend to students. 




May 2, 2018 7:10 PM
Comments · 28

I had a teacher recommend to me that I review the subjunctive for the next lesson so that we could do a conversation activity using it... it stressed me out a lot because 1) I'd never learnt subjunctive and 2) I was just beginning to learn that language again after several years not speaking it and I was struggling just to speak using simple past, present, and future tenses! I realised then that the teacher did not really have much awareness of my level in that language after a few lessons, and didn't book another one. There were a few other problems (cancelling lessons, leaving early, bad internet connection, etc.) that also contributed to that decision.

Then another teacher (this isn't a recommendation she made but it certainly frustrated me!) in my first lesson spent about 5 minutes trying to force me to sing her a song in English (my native language). I repeatedly told her that I didn't want to, and then she said she'd sing me a song in her language first. I said no thank you, but she did anyway, then said "I sang a song to you, now you have to sing to me!" She totally ignored the fact that I was clearly very uncomfortable, and only stopped because we ran out of time. Her insistence that next lesson I had to sing to her was enough to ensure I never booked another class. 

May 3, 2018

Unfortunately many teachers (professional ones especially) feel the need to be "the perfect teacher" and for that, they think that they need to show confidence and have lessons planned to present themselves as "professional" and I could even say that it's a bit of italki's fault as well because in their description of the difference between community and professional teachers can lead to both teachers and students follow and believe in that. 

Also many informal ones wants to be taken as professional ones and always come with a lesson prepared and expect the student to follow it. But in my experience, teachers who try too hard to be professionals, in reality, are very insecure of themselves and are afraid to fail or have the student thinking that the teacher didn't do a lot during the session. 

But at the same time I would encourage students to be very open and let the teacher know in details what the expectations are. When booking a lesson, write a short introduction saying "I don't like having my pronunciation corrected all the time or I don't like this and that, I prefer this and that, I am more interested in this and that" so that these letdowns can be somehow avoided. 

May 2, 2018

Susan, I think your experience points up the idea that not everyone can teach. Subject matter mastery does not equate to being an excellent, or even mediocre, teacher. Not everyone understands that.

And lastly, too many people have forgotten the old saw "God gave us two ears and only one mouth for a reason."

May 3, 2018
So, after she recommended working on the "rr" sound, did you tell her that you'd prefer focusing on other things? If she simply recommended it, I honestly don't see the problem. If she kept pushing you even after you explained that this wasn't a priority for you at the moment, then that is a problem. 
May 3, 2018

Any misunderstanding can happen. I like my teachers’ recommendations if they follow my demand for them. It has happened to me several times when a teacher recommended working on some language issue/weakness that they had spotted. Most of times their recommendations were justified so I agreed in spite of not liking that. But I am a learner who hardly ever shows disapproval of anything recommended by my teacher. If I see that it has had a positive effect on me I usually continue with it. As I have problem with my hearing/listening abilities as well as with the concetration span time I prefer doing some activities on my own but no every teacher understands this my request(it is a delicate matter for me, embarrassing situation) so I usually end up having lessons tired and exhausted until I vote by my feet and leave the teacher.

I’ve had quite recent experience with a teacher from the other platform who has shoked me a lot because he talked and especially boasted about him and his experience and abilities throughout the whole lesson without letting me tell anything or ask anything. Apparently he enjoyed this time when he promoted himself. At the end he suggested to do the online test to help him to choose what we would go to work on in the next lessons. I did not take more lessons with him. 

Susan, I think that some teachers have no idea how to teach the adults who know what to want to learn and how. Education of the young is completely different from education of the ‘older’. Only these ones who are experienced enough to cater for all age groups. 

May 3, 2018
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