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  • Celia Jenkins

Hilariously Unrealistic Expectations for Teachers

I recently heard about a call for (paid) submissions to a website for teachers and I sent them an article. A few weeks ago, I received an enthusiastic reply that read something like this: Hey! Haven't you heard? We don't pay for articles any more! But if you resubmit, we'll happily post your article on our website for nothing!

Well, guess what? I didn't bother resubmitting, but I thought I'd share my article here with you because, frankly, it's funny AF.

Hilariously Unrealistic Expectations for Teachers

Unrealistic expectations are often quoted as being one of the top five reasons why teachers quit. In recent years, the majority of teachers surveyed said that there had been a significant increase in expectations of what they had to achieve. Unrealistic goals, unachievable grades, extracurricular topics as well as a jam-packed curriculum with very little wiggle room … these are all common problems for the modern teacher. While this is a serious issue, there is also a funny side to idealistic goals that teachers have to deal with – particularly if you teach abroad or in a TEFL environment. If you fancy a giggle, take a look at these top ridiculous moments from my own teaching career

TEFL Teacher or Lady Gaga? Same Thing

When applying for my first TEFL job, I was surprised by how often I was asked to sing nursey rhymes. Ok, so if you are teaching kindergarten or even primary aged kids in a foreign country, songs and games are obviously going to make up a sizeable chunk of your teaching time – lessons should be fun and songs usually count as a fun activity. But I didn’t expect to be quizzed on this fact during interviews, and the first time I was actually asked to perform during a Skype/telephone interview, my eyebrows shot sky high.

“So do you know some songs?”


“Songs for children. Nursey rhymes.”

“Oh… yes, of course.”

“Sing one.”

“What… now? On the phone.”

“Yes. Sing for me now, please.”

Freshly graduated, hungry for adventure and a job abroad, I warbled ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ down the phone. That was the last time I ever sang in an interview. Don’t get me wrong – I’m more than happy to sing in a classroom, with students, but there is absolutely no need for interviewers to ask me to prove this fact when considering whether or not to hire me. Every other interview where I’ve been asked to sing, I terminated my application. Immediately.

She Really Likes English

I’ve taught in several schools that catered for kindergarten aged students, starting from three years old but, really, catering for older students. However, when it came to reaching financial targets, my manager at the Japanese eikaiwa was more than happy to bend the rules.

“I have a new student for you, a little girl.”

“Lovely… oh, she looks very small.”

“Yes, she is a small girl.” (Looking suspicious).

“How old is she?”

“Oh… she’s nearly three.”

“So she’s two then.”

“Yes, nearly three.”

“But we don’t accept students until they’re actually three years old.”

“Here are her documents, she will start class on Monday.”

(Reading documents). “Her birthday was three months ago. So she’s not ‘nearly three’, is she?”

“Oh, but she’s so clever. And she really loves English.”

“Does she? Has she told you that?”

“No, she doesn’t speak much Japanese yet. But I know she will love English! Enjoy!”

United Nations Elite

This has to rank as pretty much my favourite moment in my TEFL career. I was conducting a parent-teacher-meeting with Angela’s father, who spoke English quite well. Angela was young, a shy little thing, and like most Chinese girls her age, spoke very little English. I was explaining her strengths and weaknesses to her father, who I could see was very driven and wanted her to excel in her studies. But all the same, it knocked me for six when he suddenly said:

“I want my daughter to become part of the United Nations Elite. Can you prepare her for that?”

My response (after a considerable pause). “She’s five.”


Managing parental expectations is never easy, but perhaps I was just blissfully unaware of my students’ genius status? After all, I once had a four-year-old boy in my class who was absent from lesson one day, and so after the class I checked the reason why. There was a spreadsheet with different codes for missed classes – illness, operation, holiday, funeral, etc. Well, you can imagine my surprise when the boy’s code for that day related to ‘business trip’… seriously? Perhaps the hilariously ridiculous requests had been perfectly legit all along…

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