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HELP!:(How to deal with a super pernickety adult student

Posted: 12 May 2011, 10:55
by seballeste
Hi fellow teachers!:)

I am preparing an adult student for Cambridge PET. At first this pupil wanted to prepare for FCE which is such a high level in comparison. I had to "inform" this student that she was not ready for this exam, to her disgust. I told her to consider PET instead, either that or she risk doing several FCE exams, failing miserably and probably being 600e+ poorer! I finally convinced her to forget the FCE for now and instead we are doing PET tests etc.

Well this student is really demanding, not just to herself, but to me as a teacher and to be honest it is starting to really get on my nerves! Bigtime! I correct her homework every lesson, she questions every single, daft, obvious error, why this, why that? when I have already higlighted the error and why. Then I give her homework, but she overdoes it and does extra on top of what I give so more work for me to do! I have alot to mark, but she doesn´t seem satisfied. She seems to doubt all that I have corrected thus making me think why do I even bother?

She has complained about previous teachers in the past and will prob do the same when we are done! She moans about Cambridge Uni´s style with PET and takes my marking as a personal attack. My question is why doesn´t she just "study?" Her level is just not that great. Her errors, her grammar etc? She doesn´t accept her errors and questions how I correct. It´s sooooo draining! I even told her yest I am drained. I am a complete teacher and she is lucky to have me what with my exp and qualifications! Seriously considering of getting rid. There is no way I can help her prepare FCE with that attitude. I don´t want to appear to be mean but she is OTT! Help!

Re: HELP!:(How to deal with a super pernickety adult student

Posted: 12 May 2011, 11:55
by systematic
I had an almost identical situation in Avignon about 20 years ago. Believe me - I remember it well. What you don't say is whether this is a purely private arrangement or a one-to-one student at a language institute you work for. I was fortunate, the language institute belonged to me and I didn't depend on this student for the turnover. I can only say how I handled the situation, others might give you different advice.

I already knew that she's been a problem for her previous teachers, so when she arrived one day I simply said, 'Hi. Today's lesson is free, but I won't be teaching you English. ' and proceeded in the most gentle and tactful manner possible to explain why I would not be teaching her any more, and why there are no teachers left in Avignon who would be prepared to teach her, and why the teachers at the Lycée Mistral breathed a big sigh of relief when passed her Bac and left school, and why the Croux Rouge secretarial college in Avignon had not accepted her re-enrollment for the second year of their doctors' practice management course.

I spoke quietly to her for about 35 minutes and then said 'You can go now, my secretary will hand you your refund for the rest of the course when you go through reception on your way out.'

Re: HELP!:(How to deal with a super pernickety adult student

Posted: 12 May 2011, 13:18
by seballeste
Thanks for the advice. It´s my own private academy and so I make the decisions. However whether private or working for another academy/institute this problem would still exist. I should not have to just dismiss the student but the truth is since I started teaching her she has been quite alot to handle. From choosing books on PET/FCE (and the lists of books are endless), up to depending on me to inform about courses. I just don´t think I am the teacher she is looking for, but then again I truly believe she would not be satisfied with any teacher.

I will take note of all you have said. Thanks!

Re: HELP!:(How to deal with a super pernickety adult student

Posted: 14 May 2011, 03:24
by systematic
I persevered with this 23 year old girl in Avignon for 2 x 2 hrs/week for a month. Another trick of hers was not to do her set homework, but to write pages and pages of essays in terrible English and expect me to correct them. That kind of work is neither remedial nor does it teach new language. Before she came to us, she had also been thrown out of a language institute 25 Km away in Orange for the same reasons. Avignon is a big city, and the département of Vaucluse is a big area, but the world of EFL is small, and even competitors exchange feedback. A lot of our part-time teachers were also teachers at the Lycée (high school) and other local business colleges (Red Cross secretarial sch.) etc.

I will say in her defence that she lived alone with her divorced mother who was an extremely arrogant, demanding, awkward, imposing person, who had probably put her daughter under immense pressure. But the girls was an adult, and we are not social workers.
The last I heard about this girl was that she was doing a bunch of part-time jobs from working at MacDonald's to being a theatre usher, a ticket office clerk for a tour bus company, and a counter clerk in the municipal tourism bureau; at least with Avignon being a hugely important tourist destination, she could continue to practice her English, which although not academic enough for PET or FCE, was more than sufficiently adequate for those tasks.

I don't want to sound discouraging, but there is a limit to what service providers have to put up with, even from paying customers. When that limit is reached, the relationship must stop. But we try to close it in the nicest way possible, and if they are students, bite the bullet, and give them some good references to help them on their way.

Re: HELP!:(How to deal with a super pernickety adult student

Posted: 14 May 2011, 22:31
by seballeste
Your story sounds exactly like mine! Yes this student of mine would never do writings I set her, obviously because her level was so bad. Instead she did her own and to be honest they were quite dreadful!

So grateful for your advice and hope that you respond to this message after you read what happened next with this very awkward student. After your 1st response I took note and after some quiet reflection I came to a decision.

I thought this is your typical pernickety student who "thinks" they know all, discards the teacher´s advice, thinks they are superior etc. I have put up with her for a yr and 3 mths and yesterday I decided to e mail her my decision. I already told her last Thursday she is draining and too demanding. I know as a teacher one must confront the student discreetly, except I decided not to, as she is a very problematic person, and always has to be right. My intuition told me " finish the classes forever." And, boy did I make the right decision! READ OΝ!

I sent her an email, I was very polite, very professional telling her basically I could not help her anymore as a teacher. I told her to perhaps find another teacher who could accommodate her needs. She sent me a vitriolic email back, 5 times bigger than my mail. It was soooo soooo malicious, I could not believe what I was reading. She was insulting, saying I never ever explained grammar to her correctly ever, that I should correct all, whether hwk or not, that I should provide all materials, books, bibliography, etc. She went further as to question whether I have a Cambridge CELTA certificate, a degree and also my results.What a cheek! I was really disgusted, I really was. I thought I am SO GLAD to see the back of this horrid student! If she was so unhappy I have no idea why she lasted around 15months in my classes. She has done nothing but cause stress, anger, using up my time, my energy explaining everything in great detail. She was simply a really "weak" student and not good enough for any Cambridge exam at this moment in time. To launch attacks on your own teacher is beyond me, it really is. I think she was obviously jealous of me. I mean I have "nothing "to prove, she does. If any student has English classes they "must" accept all types of constructive criticism, if not then they are not learning properly.

I sent her one mail back as her mail was so acidic and I told her straight that no teacher anywhere in the world would put up with her or teach her, her demands, her attitude and that she has no shame whatsoever.In all my teaching history, this is the first time that an adult student has really “disrespected” me and gone too far. This student is rude, malicious, argumentative, a total disgrace. It´s not my fault she has psychological problems, but it´s obvious she does, a normal pupil would have just accepted this and not sent a nasty email. I am so happy I never have to see her face again-good riddance! It is a shame that I have to use this forum to offload such negative comments instead of sharing ideas about teaching. But I guess this too is part and parcel of teaching. I would like other teachers to offer advice or opinions too on this. All I can say is: "teachers do not take nonsense off any student!" The worst part is she really did not deserve my help after the awful comments. I have helped her more than any teacher she has ever had, and she knows it, the ungrateful person.

I tried to close it the best way I could but this particular student was too abusive. If I had told her kindly to leave in person she defo would have had an argument with me as she is unreasonable and nasty.