First day in Russia! + What to do with kids who say they can’t

Today was the first day of my first visit to Russia – very exciting.

I arrived in Moscow at 8:30 last night, then it took till 4:30 this morning to get to Yaroslavl. ย Then up again at 8!

The main two day workshop is tomorrow, but seeing as so many teachers had flown in from so far away (one teacher came from 1000km away, 2 ย took a four hour flight and one of them even came from a different country just for the workshop – thank you!!) we had a mini “preconference” this morning. ย And they were fantastic! ย It’s amazing to be helping teachers who know more about Genki English, the blog – and your comments – than I do!


So we had a fantastic session with lots of great questions, lots of bonus talks on marketing and lots of great requests for tomorrow.

Then after my first Russian meal – not bad at all ย – we went for a tour round the town. ย  Travelling to so many different countries, it is always amazing to be able to see history through so many different eyes. ย  And yes, those of us living in Westernised countries do have it so easy.

Demo class!

Then it was demo lesson time. ย  If any of you have found yourself thinking “just a minute, what on Earth am I supposed to do here!” before a lesson, well that was me today. ย  ย We did plan it as a follow up to the summer camps they’d had with Genki English. ย But as we all know, the best plans never survive first contact and we actually had a huge bunch of brand new kids turn up too, with their parents. ย  So I had to balance everything, along with making sure the organisers could see that I vaguely know what I’m doing and that the new parents would hopefully sign up for their course!

Luckily it went well, and the sound system coped with all these very genki kids.

I can’t do English!

And best of all one of the kids, in the game, said in Russian “But I can’t do English.” ย ย Perfect!

Soย I crouched down next to him (so your eye level is lower than his), asked him why (with translations of course) and he said it was because he wasn’t good at English.

So, as per my usual recommendation to you guys, I asked the rest of the class if they thought he was good.

They didn’t know him of course, but one of the main points of Genki English is building up this team spirit.

So they all said “Yes” ย to which I did a few “sorry?”s and then asked if they thought he was really, really, really, really good.

To which they all said “Yes!” then I asked if he was an English Superhero (we’d done the superhero song just before) to which they all said YESSSSS!!

And you know what, after that he just took a big deep breath, and still terrified to death he said all his lines in English, all with a perfect accent!

You can imagine the size of the smile on his face when he said that.

This was just what I wanted to show the teachers, and parents of course, that it’s all about building a team of kids who support each other and help each other out. ย Many teachers would have just left him to not say anything, ย but in situations like this it always pays to take the time and let the shyest kids know that we really are rooting for them.

So then after dinner I bizarrely found myself in a Russian Martial Arts class – don’t ever mess with a Russian who does this! – and finally, after writing this blog it’s time to crash out. ย  And we haven’t even started the workshops proper yet, that comes tomorrow.

Richard Graham

Hello, I'm Richard Graham. When I was a kid I found school to be sooooo boring... So I transformed my way of teaching. I listened to what the kids were really wanting to say and taught it in ways they really wanted to learn. The results were magical. Now I help teachers just like you teach amazing lessons and double your incomes!

13 Responses to “First day in Russia! + What to do with kids who say they can’t”

  1. Julia

    Hi Richard!

    You’ve shown a good example of how to let kids believe they can do things they have to be taught and help them overcome their fear. Thank you!

  2. Margit

    Oh Man! This was actually the first wrokshop of yours outside Japan where I just really thought “I wish I could go”~ and my feeling was right, it seems. From all your guys’ comments on Forum and blog and the short short skype session we had I got the impression that you are those teachers I’d love to exchange with. Just going forward and do what is to be done!

    I wish you all a great great week~Richard, if you don’T mind, could you add some small maps to the blog. Russia is so huge, and I basically know only Moscow and Vladivostok~it would be nice to have some images of where and how everyone is moving.

  3. Drew

    Good on you Richard. Hope the rest of the sessions go well and Russia will become even more Genki with Genki English. How is the Russian learning going?

  4. Elvira

    Oh my!It doesn’t look like a usuall classroom. Where is it? I’m so happy to see my countrywomen so delighted in doing genki english. Can’t imagine this all is happening in my country! I wish I were there! Yesterday was my first day of teaching kids in this new schoolyear.To my great wonder one of them who was boring at practically each class last year,reading the Do you have any brothers or sisters picture book, cried in an admiring voice: Isn’t that amazing I wouldn’t be able to do these numbers so quickly last year!You know I was just worried about wheather she’d come back and learn more… you never know the effect of your efforts untill “that” time will come!I would like to encourage those of you who’re thinking about the waste of your time and energy: it’s worth your salt. Thank all of you for the fresh ideas that keep me alive among the dull atmosphere of useless english being taught in our schools.

  5. Svetlana


  6. Mark Armstrong

    Richard, dude…

    That’s why I keep coming back to your blog, just for stories like that one. You’re an inspirational fellow, and I’ll just leave it at that.

  7. Roy Melling

    Great to see so many confident and energetic teachers there. I agree with Margit that you’ll have a great experience there. Good luck!

  8. Nataly

    I am so impressed by the workshop!
    My expectations were even exceeded!!
    Richard showed us the way how to make teaching really enjoyable.
    Positive emotions, clear and distinct explanations, teaching techniques that work made the event very helpful and unforgettable.
    The keywords of it are inspiring , motivating and efficient.
    This is the way I wish ย I had been taught . Now our kids has a chance to be taught in such a positive and natural way and to become a little happier:)
    Thank you, Richard , so much!!

  9. Chiew

    It is a work well done. We can learn about the culture and the teaching techniques. Thank you!

  10. Agnieszka

    It’s not that easy with one-on-one, though… Any ideas, how to convince one child he/she can do it?

  11. Janine

    Hi Richard,
    Was reading with interest about kids who say can’t do it. I’m currently working in China and if students have a learning disability they are relegated to the back of the class and ignored as a lost hope. When I go around the class listening to the students use their English invariably when I get to these kids the others always tell me they can’t and to forget about them. I refuse to accept this. Getting down to their level I patiently get them to repeat after me (using my TA translator). the look on their face when they are successful and get praised is priceless!

  12. Suha

    Hi Richard,
    This is really a great way to instill self-confidence and autonomy in children so that they can depend on themselves, using and producing their own sentences.

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