The complaints!

Another fan mail!  Actually, it’s the same person who asked about how to handle the kids.  This time the problem is focused on how to get a handle on the complaints.

Let’s look at the heavily edited e-mail:

 I’d also love it if you could post about classic complaints from mothers of students and how teachers can avoid the cardinal sins that bring them about in the first place.

This is a hard one.  First I would like to take a look at the situation. The conclusion is the one I keep on bantering about.  In South Korea, the self-worth of the mother is defined by the academic success of her children.  This is the source of the huge amount of complaints.  Mothers, in the least, have to pretend they are concerned to the minute with their kids performance, or else!

80% of the complaints I have received are disguised excuses to pull the kid out of school, because they think another school can do better, but for some reason they don’t want to tell me.  These complaints are the single most random thing imaginable.  There is no guiding principle or reoccurring issue.  For instance, I prefer not to give homework to children, so that becomes a frequent complaint, even though, at the initial meeting, I make it clear to them that I don’t give homework, unless the kids don’t perform well enough in class.  My classes are rowdy, I want my kids to learn how to channel their energy and give them freedom to learn how to make mistakes and learn from them.  I focus my classes on getting these kids to talk. How do you get kids to talk when they have to be silent?  Well, that is one complaint, kids make too much noise in class…  So you see, whatever you do and how ever you do it, complaints are the best way to cut classes without “losing face” (we really need to find an alternative explanation).

The other 20%, I wouldn’t call them complaints but genuine concern about their kids improvements.  These 20% are actually very interesting and if the complaint is handled well, these parents tend to stick around for a very long time.  A few examples.  I often have kids who have trouble learning as fast as the other kid, irregardless of what you try to do.  you see them doubt, you see them squint.  The squinting is a dead give away the kid needs glasses.  Consequently, by just telling the kids to wear glasses, they pick up the pace and go as fast as the other kids.  A Lot of kids come in with lack of confidence due to the constant attack on their abilities (or perceived lack thereof).  Going over the basics again, those mothers will complain “My kid can do that already!”, until I show them clearly that they don’t. I love going back to basics, even with kids who can read and write without too much problem, I will sometimes notice a minor reoccurring problem, and spend a few classes going back over some basic rules and exercises.  It breeds confidence, confidence in themselves and the belief that they just have try one more time.

You, as a teacher though, will be the butt end of the complaint.  it is never the boss’s fault, it is never the curriculum’s fault, it is always the teachers fault, especially since you don’t speak Korean.  You are going to have to learn how to handle those complaints.  Instead of fighting the complaint, work with it, come up with a solution (imagined or otherwise) and propose it to the boss, If A is the problem, and B a possible solution, can I do B?  You show in your lesson planning you implemented the (minor) change, get the Boss to take credit for it, est voila, problem solved.  Not really, but you get the drift.

Customer complaints are incredibly important, but not all businesses are able to asses properly which complaint is valid and which is not.  It is not that easy to deal with.  A bit like The Boy who cried “Wolf!”.  But in this case, you really don’t want to loose your sheep.

There you go.  I don’t have a solution for you, and I doubt anyone does.