I have to admit something: I favor lower level students. For a lot of reasons, not the least of which being that when you're looking at a classroom full of kids who've got nothing to lose, it's not hard to move them up a notch. In other words, it's not hard to feel successful.
I hear a lot of people argue to the opposite on this one -- most people, in fact -- saying that low level students see their situation as hopeless already and are therefore impossible to motivate. I haven't found that to be the case. I've found that, with my C guys, it's possible to make real measurable progress, and the students respond quite well. They start out in an awful state, and it's nothing but pure panic anytime I address any single one of them, but a couple of rounds of coming down to their level and giving them questions they know the answers to, accompanied by a big "FUCK YEAH YOU DID IT!" attitude when they produce these answers, and you've got a whole new class on your hands.
You've got to win over their trust to begin with. And by that, I mean, you have to show them that they can trust themselves. That they can understand, and they can do it. Otherwise, they'll sit there all year telling themselves over and over that they don't know, without ever realizing that they actually do. This is especially important as the NEST. Every student you have, the first time you have them, is already going to assume that they cannot understand or learn from a single thing you say. It's your job, before you do anything else, to show them that they're wrong.
At any rate, the other reason I love the C boys is because they don't give me any fucking attitude. And if they do, it's the run-of-the-mill, I'm-a-super-badass-and-everyone's-afraid-of-me variety, which doesn't phase me in the least. Those students end up being my most loyal -- always.
It's the snot-nosed A kids I always have problems with. I don't understand feeling like you're better than everyone else because your parents have enough money to send your lazy ass to hagwon, and I don't respect it. Which makes it hard for me to put any real effort into smoothing things over with those students and coming to a truce, rather than just looming over them and telling them to keep their mouths shut in my classroom. I don't like them. And perhaps my biggest weakness, as a teacher, is not being able to hide it when I don't like someone.
Someone coming up in a rough situation, being beat down by the system their whole life, and taking a big "fuck this and fuck you while we're at it" attitude toward everything as a result -- I get that. I can work with that. Being a despicable, mouthy, lazy little shit whose mother still wipes his ass? Not so much. Great. You speak English. Fucking good for you. Frankly, I wish you didn't speak a language I understand, because listening to you talk is horrible. But the world isn't all about me, so whatever.
You see. This is why I won't go to Seoul. Time and time again I get asked, what is with you and Incheon? It's dirty. It's far away from everything. The other foreigners are weird. The students are bad/stupid.
Whoa. Back the fuck up there, partner. Say what you will about Incheon, but you don't know my students. You wanna keep on keeping on with those fat little fucking mini-royalty y'all got out there in the big city, that's your business. But don't make judgements about shit you don't know. I'll stay out here with my students who've got heart, thank you very much. So what they don't come pre-packaged, speaking full English sentences? What is my fucking job? If they can't understand me, if I can't make my classes work, it's not my students who are stupid.