ESL Issues: No. 5- Who is to Blame? You, of course.

Have you been in a situation, as a teacher in a school. that the lesson goes bad, or the kids are rowdy, or someone suddenly bursts into tears (the kid, not you, that is)? Being a teacher in a language school has a lot of moving parts. There are a bunch of kids, all from different backgrounds, ages, different levels of parental expectation, different levels of maturity, and personalities. There are different things to be taught. Some are easy, some are difficult, some are a bit dull, and some get the kids excited. There are different kinds of teacher types. There are different phases of the moon. There are, in short, a whole bunch of things that may account for why a class does not go off perfectly.


In a lot of ESL classrooms, when things go sideways, it is the teacher who must accept the full blame of the situation.

There are times in any language school that a parent will have a question, a problem, or a concern with what is happening in the classroom. Sometimes the parent’s concern is completely understandable. Sometimes the parent’s request for special treatment, or permissive behaviour with a wild child is really not okay. It is difficult to know the exact details of every situation, but when there is a concern that comes up we do not immediately start yelling at our teachers.

It is our practice to take the time to discuss the problem or issue with the staff that is affected, and to get more information. At times the teacher made an error, so we discuss it and work to remedy any root causes. At times the client is over-demanding, so we need to do our best to handle that situation. In an englishbiz school we do not leave our staff “in the lurch”. We have a lot of work to do together and it requires teamwork and trust. If we cannot support and stick up for each other, we will have serious problems later. Our policy is to approach issues calmly and rationally. It is the ONLY way, as far as we are concerned.

Of course the teacher is responsible for the quality of the lesson and to be prepared and ready to do a good job. We think that this is a given. But there are also lots of times when there are other factors involved, and from this position, it is the owners who are, in the end, fully responsible for what happens in the classroom.


That is how I feel about that. The buck stops with me. If the class material is not right, I need to work with our team to fix it. If the kids are out of control, we need to get the right solution in place for better class management. If the parents are overly demanding, they will need some counseling and a time to discuss what we can and cannot do.

And if the teacher turns out to be ineffective in their work, we need to either train them up to a point they can handle the job, or counsel with them about what we need to do together to make everyone happier. Sometimes that means a staff shuffle, sometimes that means additional supports in the classroom, and sometimes…… just sometimes, it means that the teacher is not really cut out for teaching. And that too, needs to be okay. We will speak kindly and gently and figure out when that teacher needs to set off in a new direction, in a new career that is outside the stress and challenges of ESL.

In the end, I think it is not about blame. That is easy to do, and blaming someone may give a sense of temporary satisfaction, but it is often not result-oriented enough to fix whatever problem was there in the first place. Lots of things can be fixed and adjusted. But sometimes someone is just in the wrong line of work. That is not something to blame someone for. Sometimes people just got to try something and later realize that they need to adjust their personal course.  We are totally okay with that on our side, and it may be a “blessing in disguise”, as it helps someone realize that they need to chase their dreams in a totally new direction.


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