The private ESL teacher and the parents of minors

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The trainee and novice ESL teacher will meet all sorts of parents when doing ESL private lessons for minors. The majority of parents are reasonable people who will appreciate and understand that you are just trying to teach their child English: nothing more need be said about these parents.

Unfortunately, you will also encounter a minority of parents who can best be labelled as ‘difficult to deal with’; therefore, a few words are necessary as it concerns what you can expect to encounter with this latter group of parents. It is absolutely essential that you establish a well-defined relationship between you and the parents: without being impolite, you should ensure that the parents’ involvement in the lessons stops on the threshold of the student’s room: most parents speak English, so you shouldn’t have any language problems; regrettably, you will have communication problems.

Some parents like to be given regular briefings about what is going to be taught in the lessons followed by debriefings at the end of the lessons. Some parents will even go so far as to suggest what and how you should teach ESL. You will have to stop these practices right from the start. Badly behaved children are also a serious problem. If you complain to the parents, they will usually seek to blame you for being too soft. Alternatively, they will accuse you of being too strict: the parents will never admit that their child is badly behaved or spoilt.

If you find yourself in this situation, don’t consume your energy trying to discipline the child: you will exhaust yourself, and at the end of the day you will be despised by both the parents and the child. Look for an alternative private ESL job. One of your duties as a private ESL teacher will be to help with homework: ‘help’ needs to be defined because some parents literally expect you to do the child’s homework. Again you should explain that this is not possible and that from an educational perspective – it is not beneficial for their child. You should also be aware that you will be the scapegoat for ESL examination failures, and poor school results. On the other hand, if the child is successful, the parents will lavish praise on their ‘progeny’.

This can be extremely frustrating and depressing for the ESL teacher. Finally, the behaviour of some parents is extremely disgusting; their behaviour can best be summed up in a typical response: “We pay you. You work for us, and you will do as you are told.” If you meet this sort of attitude, look immediately for another private ESL job.

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