“Becky, I think I made a friend mad,” a student wrote to me out of the blue.
“What happened?” I asked.
“I asked one of the foreign teachers for some help looking over my resume and he refused and was angry,” she said.
“What did he say?” I asked feeling a little annoyed. Students are kinda fragile and I think teachers shouldn’t just fly off the handle with them.
The student then sent me photo’s of the chat she had with the teacher and I immediately got it. Apparently, a few weeks prior the teacher had asked her for help doing something and she said she would but didn’t.
So when she asked for a favor, after blatantly not helping him he got mad. “Why should I help you with something after you refused to help me?” he asked. Can’t blame him for that.
You see, native English speakers, especially teachers, get asked to do a lot of favors. On an almost daily basis I am asked to help write resumes, proofread articles and personal statements, asked for advice about college essays and much, much more. At least once a day I am hit up for some free English help or lessons. It is regular part of my life.
Most I am willing to help because they are students or friends and we have a good relationship. But some really piss me off in the entitled way they ask.
“What’s your e-mail? I need to send you something,” a former Chinese co-worker texted me out of the blue. I haven’t seen or chatted with him in over two years. I sent my e-mail and asked “what are you going to send?” I knew he was dating another colleague and I kinda had it in my mind he was sending me an e-vite to their wedding.
“I want you to look over a book review I am submitting to a paper. I am writing it from a native speakers point of view.”
Yep, that’s it. No pleasantries, no “how are you doing?” not even a “please.” In fact, he never once even asked me if I could do it. He treated me like his paid employee and told me I would do it.
And the thing is, this happens all the time. I have one student who regularly writes to me with requests like, “In Martin Luther King’s speech, what did he mean by….”
Once I was in Shanghai and I actually stopped what I was doing, sat down on a bench and wrote back and forth to her for close to 20 minutes helping her to interpret a piece of literature. What was the last thing she wrote to me? “I see. Okay.”
No thanks, no asking me what I was doing, how I was doing. Nothing. One week later she was back at it. “Becky, what does it mean in this letter where it says…”
Actual requests I have gotten with little to no warning or pleasantries.
“Becky, I want to open a shop for foreigners. What do foreigners like to buy?”–From a student I taught one semester, 4 years ago and haven’t talked to since.
“You will help me with my final thesis after a month or so,” –a very casual acquaintance I met two times about 3 years prior. (The thesis was more than 20 pages and these were the exact words he used “You will,” ummm, nope. I won’t.)
“Becky, can you please read and correct this (5 page) thesis paper? My teacher already graded it, but I want to see what you think of it.” –From a student I don’t even remember teaching, though apparently she was in my class once, maybe 6 years ago.
Don’t get me wrong. There are some people I love helping. Most requests I comply with immediately and cheerfully, even if they are bugging me. One student, from three years ago, has her own code. When she just wants to chat she writes, “Hello lovely teacher.” When she wants a favor she begins with “Hello beautiful teacher.” It always cracks me up and I’m happy to help her.
There is a former student in Hong Kong who I help a lot with her work related stuff, but we chat and even hang out all the time. And if an answer is quick and easy, such as a “Becky, what does this word mean,” kinda way, I write back immediately.
I don’t need a big gushing thank you and I don’t have time to chat with everyone all the time. But I need some semblance of concern about me as a person. I need to feel like the person asking me a favor actually knows that I’m a human being with my own life and not just an English auto-bot.
So what happened with that book review? Well, he sent it to me while I was out for the day and I told him I would probably be able to get to it the next afternoon.
“Tomorrow? It’s due tomorrow. Can’t you do it tonight?”
“No,” I said, even more annoyed that he waited till the last minute and expected me to rearrange my whole schedule to help him for free. “I’m busy. I won’t be home till late tonight.”
“Okay, you can wake up early and do it in the morning,” was his solution.
“Don’t count on it,” I wrote back. I actually did wake up early the next morning, but I deleted the email without even opening it. Then I wrote this blog post. Some people….