Tom Tsai, the owner of the Ivy Training Center, has just hired Cindy Wong, a high school senior, as a part time teacher for one of the weekend ESL classes in Edison, New Jersey. ESL stands for English As Second Language, and ESL students are children who can’t catch up with the regular classes at school. Most of the ESL classes at school are ineffective to say the least, and anxious parents send their kids to weekend ESL classes at training centers to learn more.
Tom Tsai: “Cindy, no need to teach difficult stuff. Just ask them to memorize the vocabulary, like writing 50 times of each word. After that do some grammar drill will be OK. The 8 students I give you are the easiest to teach. Their mothers have been too indulgent and none of them has formed any study habit at all. Also they have to surrender their cell phones. There’s a glass bowl on the podium.”
Cindy Wong: “Tom, that’s quite some outdated education methods you are using. I want a dynamic classroom with more interaction, more expression. A cell phone is part of a student’s identity and we shouldn’t ask him or her to surrender it, as long as it is used responsibly.”
Tom looks at Cindy, who is full of youthful energy and idealism. Then he smiles wistfully: “OK, do whatever you like to do. However their mothers want result. The students will need to demonstrate good test results every month to show their improvement in vocab and grammar.”
Cindy starts to teach by denouncing the traditional way of memorizing and she encourages students to speak their mind. At first her students are hesitating but soon, led by a boy named Dae-jung, who’s the son of a Korean businessman, they start to talk.
“Too many words, don’t you think?”
“I have a homemade ginseng cocktail that can enhance your memory. Who want to try?”
“Shouldn’t we play a game or tour the stores? We can learn our vocabulary by doing things rather than sitting here.”
“Let’s watch a movie, which is the best way to learn English, isn’t it?”
“I want to know all the words for cosmetics first.”
Soon the classroom is buzzing with excitement and it takes Cindy a while to get the room under control. But not for long. Within fifteen minutes, the students start another wave of complaint and whining.
Cindy notices that Dae-jung and his buddy Gali have been exchanging text messages on their phone and give each other snickering glances.
She walks up to Dae-jung and snatches his phone from his hand.
“What are you texting? What is this? What do you call a witch who’s also a teacher? You call me a witch? A twitcher?” Cindy raises her voice.
“You do twitch your mouth a little when you speak.” Dae-jung says.
“That’s it. You are grounded. Your cell phone is confiscated, but you wouldn’t know what confiscation means, would you?” Cindy yells.
“But you want us to speak our mind…” Dae-jung complains.
“No speak for you and Gali. Now you two need to write each of these words 100 times. If one is spelled wrong, you need to write another 100 times.” Cindy yells.
“That’s unfair. Our previous teacher only asks us to write 50 times.” Gali chimes in.
“Gali, you write 150 times. Start right now.” Cindy is furious.
The door is pushed open and Tom Tsai sticks his head in.
“Is everything OK here?”