Take Responsibility for Learning

Too often parents assume that simply enrolling their children in activities will automatically brew success. In order to master skills like English, a huge time investment is required. That starts at home.

class act

“Zhe shi shenme! Zhe shi shenme?”
A father asks his child as he points to a picture in an English book. The poor, stressed out child shakes his head and refuses to speak. Evidently, he has learned nothing in English class.

Over the years, I have had so many parents in China tell me that they’re unsatisfied that their child does not speak English at home. How could it be that they have been taking their child to English lessons for XX number of months and he/she is still not saying a word of English at home?

A few months ago, I wrote about the “Silent Stage.” Part of the reason for parents’ frustrations is due to not understanding this period of development. However, another reason as to why children do not speak English at home—even though they may speak during class—is because of the lack of an English-speaking environment.

The child may only have English lessons for 30 minutes a day, five days per week and by some miracle, the parents expect their 3-6-year-old child to go home and speak English to their non-English speaking parents after only three or four weeks (and sometimes less!) Don’t laugh, I have seen this happen.

A child may come home from class, only to have the parent sits them down and ask him/her IN CHINESE, “So what did you learn today?” or “Okay, speak English now.”

It does not work this way!

To be honest, unless that child is a true extrovert, he/she will be too shy to utter a word in English. Why would they, when his/her parents do not provide a comfortable environment at home for them to practice and speak English?

Parents are a child’s first teacher. Many studies show that children of smokers and drinkers, for example, are more likely to follow in their parents’ behavioral patterns. If parents do not show an interest in learning (not just English, but any learning), how could they expect their children to also feel enthusiastic? It is the parents’ responsibility to provide an environment that is conducive to learning.

The blame game
I have taught and managed English teachers for many years, and have seen how some parents put the entire blame of their child not completely learning English on the teacher and/or school. The child may only have English lessons for 30 minutes a day, five days per week and by some miracle, the parents expect their 3-6-year-old child to go home and speak English to their non-English speaking parents after only three or four weeks (and sometimes less!) Don’t laugh, I have seen this happen.

It is a little unfair to only blame the school or teacher. Sure, they may take some of the blame, but another part should also go to the parents who did very little—or nothing at all—to instill a joy or an interest in learning English at home. Kids also follow their teachers, but like I have written above, they mostly emulate their parents. If a child’s parents don’t show an interest, then why would the child?

Without a doubt, the best kids in class are not those whose parents already speak English or are the smartest kids in class, but have a supportive learning environment at home. I can easily tell which parents provide this by how the child acts in class. My suspicions are usually confirmed when I go to the child’s home for a visit. So, I will write it one more time, without a doubt:

The number one factor for a child to learn English is a productive home environment for learning, based on a child’s parents.

No problems, only opportunities
I am an avid reader. After generally going through one or two books a week, I’ve found—and have actually experienced in life—that there are no problems, just opportunities. It is up to us to recognize an opportunity when it presents itself and seize it. In reality, the fact that your child does not currently speak English at home is not a problem at all, it is an opportunity. It is a chance to bond and interact with your child; it is an opportunity to learn together with your child and see how well your child is progressing. This is something that all good parents should desire. Interaction with your child is a benefit that cannot be measured in any English or school exam at all. Now, stop procrastinating and making excuses. It’s time to get involved.

Category Class Act