Make no mistake, we don’t hate children. Nor do we condemn them for bad behavior –kids will be kids. But in any given ESL classroom, there are those bundles of joy that have that penchant and talent for digging the knife in the side of the teacher and twisting it. The best of them might compel you to top off an extra pint at the end of the day; the worst will have you pulling scenes from The Sitter. I know I’m not supposed to say this to a kid, but screw youuuuuuuu….

With the obligatory disclaimer that going Adrian Peterson on students is actually a bad thing, we give you the Top 5 types of students that we hate. While determining this list, adult students were largely overlooked in favor of consideration for the 少儿(shao er – kid) students, since the latter are (we trust our readers will agree) disproportionately better at inflicting pain upon ESL teachers.


1. The Smartass



A dangerous creature who comes in many forms, the Smart ass’ objective is simple: make every day, every class a baptême de feu for the teacher. Specimen 1: the kid who sabotages an otherwise perfect game by exploiting the one loophole in rules that his or her peers never thought of; Specimen 2: the kid who responds to any admonishment with the indifferent 听不懂(ting bu dong); and Specimen 3: the kid who takes the ‘carrots’ (positive reinforcement) and effectively shoves them up the teacher’s ass. Why thanks for the stars, lao shi. I’ll just go ahead and count them as tokens for the number of ways you’re mine.

How to troubleshoot:

exorcising this demon requires a multi-pronged approach: identify the specimen of troll you’re dealing with and determine its triggers; employ activities that leave ZERO room for interpretation; and reciprocate moments of impudence with equal measures of indifference and snark.

Risk factor to health:

6/10 – not enough to give you a tumor, but almost. At the very least, monitor the health of your teeth, as frequent grinding may occur.


2. The Teacher’s Pet



Perhaps it’s paradoxical to say that teachers’pets are easy to hate. But beware these sirens. They love you, they’re brown-nosing you, and they’re doing everything they can do impress you.

All in a manner that can completely cause your lesson to implode. Their weapon of choice? Answering. Every. Single. Question. Have a hands-up rule for participation?

That’s for everyone else obviously. The Teacher’s Pet will ingratiate himself / herself in the warm comfort of your approval to the point where – OH, right –no one else got a damned word in.

How to troubleshoot:

Chalk up the first three times they immediately shout an answer to cuteness. Fine. Following that, slam the door on their affections and shove the hands-up rule down their throat.

Risk factor to health

2/10 – admittedly not too bad,though (for the male teachers in the audience), frequent petting and pulling of arm hair may cause discomfort.


3. The Walking Cesspool



We’re not just talking kids with a sneeze or cough. No, the Walking Cesspools are the meth addicts from Breaking Bad. Hey, we understand that sensitivity must be exercised here, but come on! When a student walks in with an open sore the size of a Buick on their lip and subsequently chews everything in the room… THAT’S NOT GOOD.

The diagnosis from school administrators and coworkers: Oh, he’s fine. He just has too much fire in his liver. To which there are two possible responses: 1) Then he has two things; or 2) No, that’s herpes.

How to troubleshoot:

For the more complacent people in the room, wet napkins for scrubbing surfaces and maintaining a safe distance should be sufficient. For the hypochondriacs, however, you’ll need to prepare a station in the corner of the room replete with penicillin and hazmat suits.

Risk factor to health:

From 1/10 to Oh SH#T/10, the latter being basically the worst death images from Outbreak.


4. The Kid Who Never Sits


That point where class becomes the Nutcracker ballet.

Admittedly an easy choice, but it warrants a place on this list nevertheless. Why? Because it never ends with getting out of the seat, does it.

All too often, the sequence of events goes as follows: toss books and pencils to floor, grab a toy from a box and throw it across the length of the room, walk up to teacher and punch him in the balls, pause one second, smile, punch teacher in balls again, take teacher’s lesson folder and tear out every sheet, turn around, punch teacher in… yeah.

It never stops. ADHD? Possibly, in which case remember that ADHD is a real disorder that does not lend itself to typical classroom management techniques. But whatever the case may be, The Kid Who Never Sits will be the one that convinces you to finally pull the trigger on switching from beer to baijiu at the end of the day.

How to troubleshoot:

Consult any ‘classroom management techniques’ article and you’ll find the whole gamut of recommendations of what you CAN do. Give them a try. Following that, don the helmet and Kevlar.

Risk factor to health:

8/10 – The Kid Who Never Sits has the potential to assault your mind, body, and soul. If you’re not careful, chronic fatigue, cirrhosis, and an increasing longing to commit seppuku will loom in the future.


5. The King of Apathy



Rounding out this list is this writer’s personal favorite. The King of Apathy has the torpor to make even second-term high school seniors feel shame. There is no ‘teaching’ the King. There is only eliciting cricket sounds and indifferent stares after every question. That sharp pain in your wrist is from the constant teeth-pulling you’ve had to do to get the King to speak. And don’t even think your game won’t hit a brick wall and stop dead when the King’s turn is up.

How to troubleshoot:

Short of giving the King a shot of adrenaline, the best strategy is single-out the King by giving him or her a menial assignment while the rest of the class is having the time of their lives. Having the King research the rules of cricket is a good start.

Risk factor to health:

5/10 – may increase or decrease depending on teacher’s own level of apathy. Or hangover.

Honorable Mentions

  • The I-always-like-punching-teacher-in-the-balls student;
  • The student-with-the-maniacal-grandma;
  • The student-who-has-no-business-being-enrolled-in-this-class-and-can’t-say-a-damned-word.

– Mike’s Guide to China