Spitting the Dummy in
China - My Tantrum with my Students
originally posted December 11, 2010
I try to keep this site upbeat and positive, and to make teaching in
China sound like one fun class after another. But of course there
are ups and downs. Last Wednesday I "spat the dummy" at my 1:30
Oral English Class. I threw a temper tantrum, announced that I
hadn't come fifteen thousand miles to waste my time trying to get
students who are not interested in making any progress to participate in
the class and that I was going to go back to Canada. That's it. 下课
(xià kè get out of class; finish class) Class over. A mere thirty
minutes into the first period I stomped out of the classroom. In
short, I handled a moment of frustration very badly.
To "spit the dummy" is Australian idiom I learned last year when I
was asking about tickets to the Nigel Kennedy violin concert in
Melbourne. "He spat the dummy the last time he was here, you
know." the man in the tourist information center told me. I
had to ask our host what he meant, and it seems that the thing
Canadians call a soother, they call a dummy. To spit the
dummy is to act like a baby and spit out your soother in a fit of
temper. What a wonderful image, and, sadly, what a great
description of what I did.
Why did it happen? I'm still not sure. Of course I have no
intention of quitting, or of going back to Canada just yet. I'll
have to apologize and try to repair the relationship with my students.
According to what I've heard, they thought the class was like every
other class they've had, and didn't understand why I got so angry.
Exactly. That class was like every other class we've had - always
very frustrating. On Wednesday I just wasn't in the emotional shape to
handle it any longer.
What is it with that class? They should be like
all the other classes. But their body language suggests that their
dog just died, and any request for participation is met by bowed heads
and a general refusal to make eye contact.
I can't figure out why the
classes can be so different.
One thing I know is that it is my failure. I have
not engaged those students. Maybe something I said in an earlier
class has been taken the wrong way, or turned them off. Maybe they
just don't like me. I may think I'm a likeable guy, but that is a
real possibility. I need a new approach. I'm going to come
up with something by this coming Wednesday.
After throwing my temper tantrum, I could really feel
the tension in my neck and shoulders and the bad adrenalin roaring
through my head. I went home to a comforting hug from Ruth, then spent a
hard ten minutes on the exercise machine, sweating out the toxins,
followed by a shower. My next class, the 3:25 Oral English class,
was just wonderful. Students were participating, having fun,
making speeches, volunteering when asked, cracking jokes and laughing at
and with each other. I got a round of applause when the class
ended, which is not unusual with that group of students. What a
contrast to the 1:30 class.
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