Introducing… Tiger Teachers!

Cheng Han-Wu

Cheng-Han Wu is an advanced skills teacher and head of Chinese at Downe House School. Since 2006 he has strategically established Mandarin Chinese in the curriculum from Key Stage 3 to Key Stage 5. Cheng-Han holds a Masters degree in teaching (MTeach), and in 2013 he won a UCL IOE Confucius Institute Excellence Award. He is an outstanding mentor to teacher trainees and he regularly organises TeachMeets for MFL teachers.

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I have been meaning to write this article about my thoughts after watching the BBC programme Chinese School in the summer. The documentary is about having four Chinese teachers in Bohunt School (oversubscribed mixed comprehensive school rated as ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted) teach pupils the Chinese way. I feel that the Chinese teachers always had really high expectations of all the pupils they taught, and had sheer determination to see this through.

However, the pupils were not used to this, and as a result were defiant to this new stretch and challenge method. Perhaps it is difficult with a large class of mixed ability pupils, and they were used to ‘having a go’ as it is considered to be good enough.

Ethos of Aiming High

On another note, the ITV programme School Swap: The Class Divide (coincidently on at the same time as Chinese Day) saw heads from Wiltshire’s Warminster School (independent sector) and Derby's Bemrose School (state) swap roles. I feel that the teachers in the both sectors are just dedicated as each other, but the culture of pupils are very different. In the programme, pupils at Warminster generally wanted to aim high academically and there was no time to ‘mess around’. At Bemrose, however, this was not always the case, as state school pupil Brett Riley showed a very different personality when he was at Warminster School.

Three packages

In Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chua’s controversial three qualities sum up the above two programmes well.
"I feel that the teachers in the both sectors are just dedicated as each other, but the culture of pupils are very different."
The first is a superiority complex: the sense that your particular group is exceptional, as the Chinese teachers sensed of their pupils and wouldn’t accept anything less than ‘perfect’.

The second essential quality, insecurity: this gives the Chinese teachers the sheer determination to see pupils achieve their best, and drill and work on areas for improvement.

The third quality is impulse control, which is defined as the ability to resist temptation. When everyone else was focused and there was no time to mess around at Warminster, Brett conformed and was able to focus there too. In September, he received a scholarship to study at the school.

After being inspired by the above, I want to introduce the term ‘Tiger Teachers’.

A Tiger Teacher is someone who has extremely high expectations of themselves. They must never cease to learn and sharpen their sword. It is easy to repeat the same lesson over and over again for 20 years, but I think we are doing the pupils disservice if this is the case, the cohorts are different every year although lesson contents might be the same.

A Tiger Teacher has extremely high expectations of their pupils, both morally and academically. They have the sheer determination to see them achieve their fullest potential regardless of the ability and background, and do not have excuses or accept any.

At the end of the programme, the Chinese methods proved to be a winner in terms of test scores. I think it is risky to focus on results only, and I believe Tiger Teachers also have the duty to educate our pupils to be better citizens of this increasingly competitive world so a sense of integrity, honesty and fair play is role modelled and instilled in them.

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