Type of ESL students you will teach in Hong Kong, and how to deal with them

Every student is unique and has their own sets of personalities, learning speeds and learning styles. However, I have noticed that most Hong Kong ESL students do somewhat roughly fit into specific groups or types.

These types can range anywhere from making teachers want to quit their profession as soon as possible to make educators feel fulfilled and purposeful. Whatever the case might be, every student needs to be understood, helped, and educated.

This topic is mostly a globally relevant one, but they are, of course, without a doubt heavily relevant to Hong Kong as well. Personally, throughout my experience as a teacher, many students can be divided into two categories and then subcategories from those two categories. Confused? Let me explain.

Whether we like it or not, students’ academic abilities can be divided into strong and weak. Aside from how good they are academically. Another criterion they can be divided on is their attitude towards studies which can be grouped into diligent and lazy.

A Quick Summary:

  • It is best to provide strong and diligent students with difficult concepts and interesting questions to push them to reach the highest of the highs.
  • It is best to provide strong but lazy students with relatable stories and motivation to make them understand why they are expected to put in more effort.
  • It is best to provide weak but diligent students with lots of attention, and they will probably benefit better from smaller class groups or private tutorial lessons.
  • It is best to approach weak and lazy students outside of class because their central issue is their unwillingness to work hard which has to be solved on a more personal level.

Strong and diligent

Child reading a book

For obvious reasons, these students tend to be most teachers’ favourites. They tend to submit their work on time and are very likely to perform well in tests and examinations. They are also comparatively much easier to look after and teach. They tend to pick up new concepts fairly quickly.

However, teachers might not give them as much attention as some weaker students due to the large group size. Such students, as a result, can feel that they are not given much attention. Unfortunately, another issue that arises for them is that they might not reach the higher highs that they might aspire to because of not getting enough attention.

Teachers should, in a few ways, try to keep with these students. The strong and diligent students also deserve equal attention, and it would be a good idea to introduce them to more difficult challenges and concepts, and make them push for a little more.

Strong but lazy

An ESL child lazily writing

This is an exciting combination because it suggests that the student is just naturally gifted. Some strong students are just lazy, but some also have an air of arrogance about themselves. In any case, they usually do well in their studies. However, their laziness might not always ensure this.

It can also be frustrating because the teachers are well aware of how much potential those students and how much they are squandering by not pushing themselves enough. The way to help these students, in my opinion, is to reach out to them and explain to them why they should try harder. It is not a crime to be too ambitious but should explain to them that their gifts are valuable and should try their best to use it well.

Weak but diligent

Student in HK being helped by a teacher

I honestly love students who might be weak but are hard- working. It can be frustrating to see them not understand the concepts even though you try hard to explain it continuously.

It is very important to be patient with them most of all. They might not be good at academics, but if they are trying hard and do not feel like they are getting enough attention from the teachers due to how weak they are, it will only discourage them from trying.

One issue with them is that they have a good attitude, so teachers tend to put a lot of effort and time into them. However, being weak means that they take up a lot of the teachers’ time. This lowers the amount of time, and attention teachers can put into other students of the same or different type.

For these reasons, it would be best for these kinds of students to have extra private tutorial lessons to get the attention they need and probably want.

Weak and lazy

A child flying a top plane

The crème de la crème. This type is perhaps the bane of most teachers. However, for that same reason, they are probably the ultimate test for educators. These students mostly tend to be weak in their studies and, perhaps due to that, they also tend to be lazy. I have personally noticed that these students tend to be knowledgeable and have potential in other fields such as sports and niche topics like technology, gaming and animals. However, since we are still living in this society that values school education, it is essential to realize the same.

This type of students require much energy, and perhaps most of it will be outside of class. If teachers care for their students, they should make it a point to talk to them regularly and continuously motivate them. They should set lower expectations at first and applaud the students at reaching those expectations. Later can gradually increase their expectations and the threshold at which those students receive praise.

The important thing is for students to be continuously encouraged. In class, these students either take up most of the teachers’ time or take none because teachers also give up on them. Like I mentioned before, no student is worth giving upon. However, such students would probably fare better if they were to have one-on-one lessons instead.

To Sum Up

There are many nuances in the types of students in the world. This is just a rough categorization based on my observation from my teaching experience in Hong Kong. The truth is that some things are just universal. No matter what type of students you teach, they need and want proper guidance from teachers, and as teachers, it is our job to provide it to them and figure out the best way to do so.

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This article was originally published on December 23, 2020 and was last updated on January 6, 2021.

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