Raoul's China Saloon (V4.0 Beta)

The Bar Room => The BS-Wrestling Pit => Topic started by: Bentham on November 05, 2008, 03:03:09 PM

Title: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: Bentham on November 05, 2008, 03:03:09 PM
There is an article on this topic at middlekingdomlife.com which states something somewhat similar to what I say here, however there is a question in this vein that I want to ask.


Being a good teacher in China is a popularity contest. If you are popular with your students, then you are a good teacher. The worth of a teacher is measured by their personality rather than their pedagogical skills. Good classes are those that are fun as opposed to those where students increase their ability in the English language.

At least in this respect, China truly is a society where style is valued over substance. This much, I believe, would be obvious to anyone who has taught here for any period of time.



So my question is, why the hell do you choose to stay and teach here?
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: Lotus Eater on November 05, 2008, 03:27:15 PM

Being a good teacher in China is a popularity contest. If you are popular with your students, then you are a good teacher. The worth of a teacher is measured by their personality rather than their pedagogical skills. Good classes are those that are fun as opposed to those where students increase their ability in the English language.
 


Yes and no.  Students submit ratings of their teachers, which are taken into account by the PTB.  BUT .. these ratings are not just based on making the classes fun, but if you actually taught students stuff they need to learn.  We have had teachers given the heave-ho because they spent all class telling stories, not teaching.   The student complaint was 'too many stories, we didn't learn anything'.

My students have to work HARD!  Even my Oral English students have to submit short written essays EVERY week as well as write diaries detailing their practice and progress in speaking English outside the class room. My culture classes also submit written briefing papers every week, as well as mid-semester and end of semester papers. 

I have been told by a good friend that at my previous uni he didn't take my class as I had a reputation for making students work hard, and if they didn't, of failing them.  No dancing monkey rep, no marching orders.

A 'bad' personality could also mean poor communication skills - not good for teaching.

I think the students know which teachers care and which don't, and they add this into their evaluation. 


I stay here and teach because I love it.

I stay here and teach because I get a thrill out of seeing people achieve.

I stay here and teach because I enjoy the challenge of helping students understand the world they live in a little more. 

Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: Calach Pfeffer on November 05, 2008, 04:00:44 PM
Hey Jeremy.

According to my research... (http://raoulschinasaloon.com/index.php?topic=2624.0) ahahahahah

Most students of English that most foreign teachers encounter are girls, and most of them--like 75 percent--are--forgive me some jargon--Fs.  That is, the bulk of "our students" are young people who make decisions using feeling criteria.  Which is to say, they--for them, naturally, normally, and seriously--like and value a teacher they can feel some personal rapport with.  Which is to say, yeah, personality contest.  But, more exactly, a personality contest which if you win, you can go on to teach whatever you like easily, and if you don't win, you have an uphill but not necessarily automatically lost battle.

I say this as the one most likely to be voted "cool and distant."  And to be frank, if they're gonna vote with their feelings, the least they could do is wear miniskirts to class more often.
 bhbhbhbhbh
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: cheekygal on November 06, 2008, 12:15:13 AM
I think it depends on the school and their expectations of what teacher is there for. The dancing monkey phenomena is fading away. More and more schools start caring for both personality and teaching skills. I love teaching and that's why I chose to be a teacher in general.
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: MK on November 06, 2008, 12:23:43 AM
Quote
why the hell do you choose to stay and teach here?

Because not all jobs are like that.  I am not very good at the dancing-monkey-acting-the-fool-game, at least not 'on demand' day in day out.

I teach 'EAP' ('English for Academic Purposes') at a Sino-UK operation.  Although joint-ventures get a bit of a bad rap on this board (Raoul hates them!) I reckon I work for a pretty good one.

Most of the students quickly realize they are going to have to do a modicum of hard work if they are to succeed at a British Uni (usually after messing up their first mid-term).

This means that whether I can help students pass exams becomes more important than how handsome/funny/wacky I am.  I can still act the goat sometimes, but it's more on equal terms.
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: decurso on November 06, 2008, 01:00:56 AM
 Yeah...I've done the dancing monkey thing and didn't care for it much. But I know of a lot of other jobs (including my current one) where you are expected to produce results or you will get your walking papers in a hurry. Still...jobs like this seem to be the minority.
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: Bentham on November 06, 2008, 01:32:31 AM
Thanks for the replies everyone.


I am in my first semester teaching in China and have become a little frustrated/irritated by what I mentioned above. So it's good for me to hear your replies.

Firstly, I think you made apparent that the teacher can set the standards for their teaching themselves. Student expectations are important, however one must teach as one thinks will best benefit the students. Secondly, a few of you indicated that this situation in China is changing. This sounds extremely positive, though I am a little skeptical as to how quickly this will spread throughout the People's Republic. Though, as you said, it all depends to a large degree on location and institution. 
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: Mimi on November 07, 2008, 10:57:02 AM
I believe teachers here are expected to be entertaining.  However, a teacher doesn't need to jump around like an idiot and speak as if they were a puppet on Sesame Street to be entertaining.  Genuine enthusiasm for the material and "teaching outside the box" can be much more valuable than dancing monkey antics when trying to become popular with your students.  A proper class can be both fun and very educational, especially with Oral English.  Students who are caught up in an enthusiastic atmosphere are more likely to open their mouths - however, they will only open their mouths if they think their teacher has the skills to help them improve.  Otherwise, they think of their English classes as "stupid laowai theatre"... a nice break from the rest of their day, but a terrible class. 
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: DaDan on November 07, 2008, 12:05:11 PM
I upped my student approval rating after I learned to tell them at the end of class & again endof week what was taught...

Hard to judge language learnt, specially by beginner learners.

I found Chinese students whereI worked needed to be told what they learnt before they could / would believe, reconize & see they actually did.
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: Raoul F. Duke on November 07, 2008, 02:56:49 PM
Popularity is indeed important, but I'd concur that it doesn't always take a "monkey-dance" to get there. Being open, engaging, and funny works too.

And yeah, I'm not much on the foreign JV schools. A couple of folks on here do seem to have found good ones, but in general I'd advise a very jaundiced eye in looking at these jobs. It seems to come down to which JV partner really wears the pants...if it's the foreign partner, there's a better chance of the school being tolerable. If it's the Chinese partner, it's a fairly safe bet that the whole thing is as crooked as a dog's leg. A stunning number of Western schools are perfectly willing to lend their name to a program in China, let the Chinese partner run things "their way", sit back and watch the money roll in, and not ask a lot of silly questions about what happens in the school.

I stayed here and taught here because I've loved living in China...and teaching (almost) pays the bills.
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: Foscolo on November 19, 2008, 08:26:01 AM
I once knew a teacher whose pedagogical techniques were entirely limited to:
- chatting about her somewhat spicy private life
- teaching English swear words
- having the class chant saucy rhymes

This kid was a riot, and everybody liked her, especially her students - until after a few weeks they got bored with it, and realized they weren't learning anything useful and were wasting their or their parents' money.

My experience is that quality lessons delivered in an entertaining and enjoyable way will - in the long run, anyway - win over more students than a popularity-courting novelty-act.

But I would stress the "entertaining and enjoyable" part. However academically solid they may be, if lessons are dry and repetitive, most students won't be on the teacher's side.

Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: Riz on November 19, 2008, 10:12:38 AM
Humor is an essential part of a classroom situation. I'd say 20% humor and 80%( roughly) should be the focus on objectives of the lesson.When I say humor, I mean subject related humor, something that just pops up in to the teacher's mind that he/she has not planned to say or share and he thinks that it can make the students smile or laugh a little. I hope my friends here will agree with humor and serious teaching ratio.

Unfortunately, The situation in China at most of the colleges, if not all, is that they demand  humor which is not at all related with the lesson content.I believe the classroom humor should have some link with the lesson plan. It serves a purpose of ' reinforcement' in learning. Our students get so much fun when we dance. sing or fool around in the classroom or at English corners held by the schools. It is more like slapstick comedy. I'd love to tell jokes in English or make one lesson plan where every student should find a joke and tell it out in the class. The problem is, no one understands or laugh at jokes except few and and I find myself laughing at my own joke in the end. Teaching and learning require a lot of consistency,patience, keep the interest level stable or raised and concentration. My kids lack all the basic ingredients. They want to learn English as it is some science subject. They look for formulas and easy ways to learn.The focus is not learning honestly but learning quickly, no matter how. Motivation level is ground zero in most cases. I have tried playing monkey and stuff. I could attract only few through this method. I never see hands raised to ask me anything. There's no questions at the end of the class. I have no idea if they like me or dislike me. Many of the faces are expressionless-Trust me!
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: George on November 19, 2008, 11:36:20 AM
I use humour a lot. I'm very humourous, of course. I always try to make it tie in with what we are discussing. It's an Oral English lesson, so I have to get the little buggers to speak! I have 22 classes, Junior middle. 2 are basically stuffed by half-a-dozen boys. The other 20 are great fun. This week, eg, we are talking about what did you do on the weekend. "Did anyone go shopping"? This gets them into using the right tense. "What did you buy"? "I bought....."
"How much did it cost"?....This leads into jokes about the financial crisis. "You didn't spend enough money" If they didn't go shopping..."What did you eat this weekend"? "Did you eat a dead bird"? "Nooooooooooo! Yuck!!!" "How about a dead animal"? "Nooooooo! Yuck" The smarties will catch on quick.
"Do you like chicken"? "Yessssss".. " "Chicken is a dead BIRD"! Prepare to be surprised at how many will disagree with that.
I have an almost standing joke in one particular class. One girl's Mother recently went to Japan, so we talked about what she would bring back. "Hello Kitty" was the obvious answer, so I asked about HK things. Today she said she had a Hello Kitty knife. Great! With my evillest voice, I said "Hello Kitty, I have a knife" Turned out to be HK chopsticks!!
I use stock phrases each lesson for stock situations. They come to expect it, and get in ahead of me.
Each week, 3 students have to present a news item. In my best newsreader voice, I announce each student. Sometimes there is an opportunity for a joke, sometimes not, but they are always ready to respond.
In my most responsive classes, I have certain students who are the "straight men". They know it, and are prepared to take the role. One boy, whose English name is SevAN, expects a joke at his expense each week. Sometimes I will say "Good Morning, Class SevAN". Other times I will call him Seven. Another girl, whose English name is Barbara, is waiting for me to roll the Rs in her name when I ask her a question.
I keep them guessing, I sometimes take the unexpected path, but I always try to keep a learning point in there.
I encourage them to use their Chinese names in conjunction with their English name. EG, My Chinese name is "Gao Shu".....tall tree...so I say I am John Gao Shu. My pronunciation of their Chinese names is not always good, so I can equate this with their pronunciation of English words.
Humour is a good Teaching Aid! agagagagag
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: dragonsaver on November 19, 2008, 12:24:12 PM
I use humour too.  I also tie it into the lesson I am teaching. The reading lesson today was about humour.  I told a couple of dumb jokes, the student that understood it translated it into Korean.  They said it wasn't funny to them because they tell different kinds of jokes.

My Chinese students change desks every day so I have minimal chance of learning their names. They change desks on purpose so I can't find them in the class. Then they laugh at me when I can't remember their names.  It livens them up and makes them more responsive to the lesson.
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: Riz on November 19, 2008, 02:33:36 PM
I will try to follow few of the tips again next time that I have just got to learn from the above two posts.Teaching past tense and asking " How did you spend your weekend?" and create humor out of the situations. 'Dead bird' idea is very good to make them think differently.
Thanks!
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: Day Dreamer on November 20, 2008, 08:45:52 AM
I try to be both entertaining and informative. The "dancing-monkey-acting-the-fool-game" well only so far. In my Bus-Eng class, a room of 70 students quickly dwindled to 30. But those 30 come to every class, art awake, take notes, ask questions and I enjoy every minute of it. I tried to help the Rip Van Winkles, but I'd rather teach a smaller group who want to learn. And the think I'm very entertaining and informative. (Job done)

The younger kids (12 - 14)are actually easier than the unis (20 - 22)
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: AMonk on November 20, 2008, 10:59:26 AM
I don't know about the "Foreign" or "in China" portion of this, but I have always used a touch of humour in my lessons.  It helps to keep me sane  axaxaxaxax .....and I do consider myself to be a good (effective) teacher.
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: ericthered on November 20, 2008, 05:41:09 PM
I always use humour in class. I find it's the best way to get them to talk. Now, my life may not have been a rip-roaring tale fit for the pen of Twain but there are certain aspects that tend to break the ice, like waking up with a piglet snoring in  my ear, being chased by an irate ram, my one foray into cow-tipping which also led to being chased, taking the wrong ferry and ending up in Sweden instead of a northern part of Denmark, and all the everything-in-China-makes-me-confused anecdotes.
It gets them to ask question and add comments. They laugh and, so far, not a single student has skipped or been late for class.
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: Day Dreamer on November 29, 2008, 04:55:07 PM
Frequently I teach confidence as much as or any other aspect of learning.

I was shocked as to the extent of vocabulary these guys knew until I assigned written homework. They know the words, they just won't use them.

Funny, back home, you couldn't get us to shut our pie-holes
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: Escaped Lunatic on November 29, 2008, 11:32:57 PM
being chased by an irate ram,

Sounds like Eric was a ba-a-a-a-a-ad boy.   ahahahahah
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: JShep on April 15, 2009, 05:13:14 PM
The worth of a teacher is measured by their personality rather than their pedagogical skills.

Plenty of people everywhere consider personality quite important when measuring pedagogical skills.

Quote
At least in this respect, China truly is a society where style is valued over substance. This much, I believe, would be obvious to anyone who has taught here for any period of time. 

Many consider this true in other societies as well.

Do people in any society really value style over substance or does it only appear that way from the other side of the fence? Could it be proven? I suppose most teachers in any society could strike a balance between substance and style. Many teachers accomplish this nicely and are remembered for a lifetime.

Quote
So my question is, why the hell do you choose to stay and teach here?

To hear the success stories of my students.
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: synthette58 on September 12, 2009, 04:52:38 PM
What makes a good foreign teacher?
 
#1: A Sense of Humour!!! (note: English Spelling! The Queens!).......we won't go into this right now..........m'kay?

One needs to 'engage' the students - let them know that it's ok to 'think' for themselves - there's NOTHING to remember - they don't have to write down every 'sacred' word that comes out of your unholy mouth!
Hired Monkeys No More!
What I teach, I teach with passion and feeling - if they don't "get it" - then it's their loss.........or Mummy and Daddy's.........if I can't make them sit up and beg for more, then I've failed. 90% of the time, I can. We're here to inspire, to inflame, to invoke - not to pander to the wannabe-big-black-car-drivers............that's not why we're here!!
It's because we see a Nation that's crying out for help - because they've been swept up in the global tide of Capitalism - and, yes, to them - money = face!
It's the same in India - lowest caste, burn the dead.........higher caste, work for big global giant like IBM, make much money, buy good wife.

Trying to differentiate between 'American' (ahem...clears throat......NO! It's not pig flu!!)......and 'real' English.........what they 'hear' on the TV and what is 'real'.
The primary difficulty for me is in discerning 'what' they want to learn?
ie. a bunch of freshmen.......sitting at the furthest recesses of the classroom, avidly texting into their cellphones........Hello!!........Are you with us???..........you want to talk about what!!!! Food? Culture? You've not BEEN anywhere! Next..........Relationships?........oh, come on, you're 20 going on 13..............next...........One Night Stands.......Okay - then you need to be in the class where PedoMan is the teacher!!

Seriously........China needs to shape up re its Education system.......more and more kids are failing their TOEFL, IELTS, SATS, PETS etc.........whatever acronym you feel like putting on it - and it's down to US - NOT the backpackers we've inherited this mess from!
China is #2 in the list of most powerful nations - 1st is India..........(ok, you need a real, legit, 200 hr TESOL/CELTA to teach there, and good luck!)............and what do we have to do??
Wipe out the past 40 years, that's what!
Imagine we're at the inception of the destruction of the Cultural Revolution - because - that's REALLY where we are! Educationally, anyway! We're teaching robots, who have never been allowed to 'think', to 'reason' - FFS, they've never even heard of the Kublai Khan, let alone Socrates!! They don't even know their own history!

We have to undo the damage, and reinstate 'real' teaching methodologies - don't even dare mention annual teacher ed. classes to them!
God Forbid!
Their Chinese teachers are doing great! (which is why 99% of our students FAIL on writing and listening..and why they end up in Daddy's business, or managing Pink Shops downtown, or operating fly-by-night Pyramid health scams!)............it's not rocket science.
It is encumbent upon us to re-educate the system...........

How?
I haven't a clue.
Except one student at a time.
But, Oh, what a mess we've made, so far - no wonder 'laowai' is fallen to such a derogatory term!
 ababababab
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: Lotus Eater on September 13, 2009, 12:49:15 PM
We definitely need to have a sense of humour as No 1 attribute to teach here - because otherwise we will take ourselves and our role way too seriously.

Like Synthette and many other teachers on this forum, I teach my classes with enthusiasm, with passion and preparation, and the students respond (well, a goodly percentage of them! ahahahahah). I am totally over the moon when they make progress.  I teach critical thinking, and the students pick it up quickly.  It's like opening a door in a wall they didn't realise had a door.  They are through it before you can say "Look...". 

The debating club has to hold try-outs because so many students want to join.  Speech competitions also require try-outs to drop the number of entrants from 100+ to 15-20 that I can realistically train for a further in-house competition.  Students OFTEN come to classes in areas other than their majors because they are eager to learn.  I always have some ring-ins in my classes (even to joining in the final exam assignment!!).  My students will ask me if they can come to a different class because the maths or technology class they want to audit is on at the same time.  Other students are studying a second degree at a different uni at the same time.  There is a significant percentage of students who are really motivated.  How many students back home, at uni level, would ask for additional time with you to practice speaking or write extra papers for you to check?  Here, it is again, a significant percentage.

But we aren't here because
Quote
we see a Nation that's crying out for help
.  We are here because the Chinese Gov't decided as part of its Opening Up policy and its newly acquired relationship with western trading powers that English would be a useful language for a trading nation to learn.  It replaced Russian as the 'language du jour'.  Most of our students parents or grandparents, if they went to school, learned Russian as a second language.

They do know their own history - just not our version of it!  ahahahahah ahahahahah  I am sure more Chinese students can quote poetry and philosophers than our students - just Chinese poetry and Chinese philosophers!  How many western students know anything about Li Bai or Du Fu?  But Chinese students will at least know Shakespeare and other western writers existed.

When western countries have DROPPING literacy rates, we can't in all honesty say that our education systems don't need revamping just as much.
Quote
The newly released National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) just shows how “far” we have come in the last 10 years.

The Assessment shows a 25 percent drop-off in reading proficiency on the part of college graduates since 1992, with only 31 percent of those classified as “formally educated” attaining what is deemed a high level of decoding text. While there is some good news (modest literacy gains among African-Americans and Asian-Americans), we must face up to the fact that some 40 million American adults (as the Christian Science Monitor put it) “can’t read much beyond ‘See Spot run.”
 

When people in western countries vote for idiots like John Howard and George Bush, when they accept the "Patriot Act' and other "National Security' legislation uncomplainingly, then we too have raised nations of people who cannot think.

China has had a massive expansion in the education system over the last 20 years.  With its continuing changes in policy, the expansion is continuing, at primary, secondary and tertiary level.  The Ministry of Education has a massive program to manage.  Sure it needs changes, every teacher and student you speak to will give you additional ideas on the way it should change.  Choosing the right changes, having them implemented across the country is a massive job.  It is happening.  A number of universities have begun Critical Thinking programs, more and more universities each year enter national and international debating competitions, more and more students are studying overseas, more and more teachers are taking 3-12 month 'visiting scholar' programs overseas.  All of these push change.

The Chinese system of education also has its pluses.  China also doesn't do too badly in international Maths and Science Olympiads. Their education system must be doing something right. 
Quote
China is the only nation that has achieved an all-members-gold IMO multiple times (9 times in total, including years 1992, 1993, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2009).
Scientific innovation in China is increasing, strongly supported by the Government.  Can western countries look at the level of support their governments give to basic research and compare favourably?  Much of this research is done at the universities.

Students may be 20 going on 13 in their naivety about sex, romance, relationships, politics,etc but they are 20 going on 50 in their sense of responsibility to family and state.  How many western students will say, in all sincerity, "I want to make my country better"?  These students do. How many western students talk about paying back their parents for their education?  Or fully expect their parents to live with them when they are old and sick?

I think we need to be very careful when we want to
Quote
re-educate the system
.  We are using our ethno-centric values to impose our version of 'right' and 'wrong'.  And our own countries don't show us a huge amount of benefit when compared to this system.
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: Riz on September 16, 2009, 05:56:48 AM
I am impressed by what Lotus opinionated. Population is one big factor too where it could take time to bring about major changes. I see teens nowadays coming from schools to learn English at this training center. I find them quite imaginative and communicative. I know it requires so much patience for a foreigner many times. I mean in a classroom situation. It's slow tho yet it's progressing. It can take many decades to improve the education scene here for the Govt. I new breed of trained teachers equipped with latest teaching methodologies and motivated to teach is required. Exposure to international news and media. I'd include sex education in that as well since pregnancy out of wedlock is common in China. Genuine foreigner teachers are  qualified to teach in their own countries who studies educational psychology, classroom management to curriculum designing plus lesson planning, delivery,etc. Chinese classroom management requires hell lot of labor. There are so many micro details in education that don't exist in this system. As I said earlier it'd improve gradually. It also requires open-mindedness and free thinking when we learn a different language. It's not that language we learn but the culture, slang, the way people of that language behave or live is also important. A language is a concrete structure of an unfinished building unless we plaster, paint, furnish and decorate with other aspects as I've described above.

Well, that will not be easy for the Govt to hire real Experts then. I am doubtful if any specialist will want to teach for 4500-5000 RMB a month? We all do it now but it would be harder to find a job for only being a Laowai.....It's again good that Chinese people are familiar with foreigners and have learnt a little bit from us during 10-15 years. Us means foreigners here.
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: kitano on October 04, 2009, 01:11:27 AM
I remember when i learned Italian I passed the exams to ALevel standard at university in England but when I went to live in Italy I was scared to even book a hotel in italian at first

that's the basis of my philosophy for teaching. It's true for any subject anywhere, but for most chinese people it seems more acute because of the distance and their education system, but communicating that the language they are studying is something alive and not just something to study is our main job imo
Title: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: James the Brit on October 04, 2009, 10:02:47 PM
Interesting points have been raised here. However, I disagree with what Synthette has said. I don't think it's a foreign teachers place to "change the system". This isn't our place. This is an implied way of criticising the Chinese Gov' and as you know, this will not go down well.

We are guests in China and if we don't like it then, tough it out or leave, easy as that.
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: synthette58 on November 11, 2009, 02:59:38 PM
Perhaps better said than I first put it.
We can't change the system, but we can 'tweak' it into shape slowly - I'm still constantly amazed how LITTLE the students (and I mean post-grads here!) know about their own country and culture.
I've now asked 360 out of my 400 students what the 5 stars are on the Chinese flag.......okok, the Big One, we all know........then 4 small - one is workers, one is farmers - the other two - NADA!!.....not a CLUE!

- not quite true - one bright spark this morning suggested that one of the other two remaining stars was 'Foreign Teachers' - thus guaranteeing themselves a place in my PG history, and more than a brief moment of hilarity.

Some days are just  bibibibibi

But, who the heck else is going to teach them? Who? The Cultural Revolution is dead and buried, my friend, we're looking at a 'New' China. Just by virtue of being here endows us with a huge responsibility; unless it's 'just about money', of course. mmmmmmmmmm
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: George on November 11, 2009, 09:10:09 PM
Problem, Synthette, is, they don't really believe us. Their "real" teachers, and the books they have to read, fill their little heads politically correct stuff. That's more important, because they need that stuff to pass their exams.
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: Lotus Eater on November 12, 2009, 01:18:25 AM
I think education strategies are changing in China, albeit VERY slowly, given the size of the population requiring education, the Confucianist basis of culture and the massive disparity between and within provinces.

There are now many universities out there experimenting with various ways of implementing the directive for 'Quality Education' - and yes, there is one.  The market place is driving a need for educational change.  The increasing number of students heading overseas for their Master or PhD degrees to GOOD western unis is pushing the development of more flexible education here.

Every 3 or 4 weeks I am given papers to edit, written by non-English majors, with a reasonably high standard of English.  These papers are new theories, new discoveries - all in the high-tech subjects, being the type of uni I am in, and they are being accepted and published by well-known English language professional journals. Chinese professors and students CAN be creative, and they are.

When we are calling for a major change in 'the system' there are many factors we need to think about - not the least is a comparison with our own system.  Have we done such a good job in education at home?

We had the same problems when a huge influx of students entered a previously limited system.  Today the system itself is more geared to the numbers (and in fact will have to start gearing down, given future demographics) but we can't claim our results are rising rapidly or that there is a massive rise in creativity or critical thinking in our own countries.

One US 2008 study found:

Study findings include:

    * More than 75 percent of students at 2-year colleges and more than 50 percent of students at 4-year colleges do not score at the proficient level of literacy. This means that they lack the skills to perform complex literacy tasks, such as comparing credit card offers with different interest rates or summarizing the arguments of newspaper editorials.

    * Students in 2- and 4-year colleges have the greatest difficulty with quantitative literacy: approximately 30 percent of students in 2-year institutions and nearly 20 percent of students in 4-year institutions have only Basic quantitative literacy. Basic skills are those necessary to compare ticket prices or calculate the cost of a sandwich and a salad from a menu.


I think we need to look at the efficacy of our own programs before we require a wholesale dismantling of this system to make it fit what we think is the 'right' way.  Educational theorists have argued long and hard over what is the best way to teach, and every few years we seem to have an overhaul of one sector or another of teaching.  We still don't have it right for our own cultures and students, especially in a rapidly changing world.

We should also be careful that we don't compare apples with oranges.  We are, for the most part, teaching ESL.  So to compare on a level basis, we should be comparing the programs run here for language learning with programs run at home for second language learning.  How many language learning programs at home move out of the fundamentals of grammar, vocab, construction etc into asking students to be creative, think critically, research etc in the second language?

Here, I do what I can to help students prepare for the world they are moving into.  I coach a healthy debating club that has to run selection trials over 2 days because so many students want to join (I have no data for comparison in other countries on that one - any teachers from other countries can give me advice on how many students want to join debating societies in their universities???).  

Universities across China are moving into teaching critical thinking programs and every year more and more debating tournaments are held, with more and more universities joining.  ALL in a 2nd language.  This university runs short courses for all 2nd and 3rd year English majors in Debating and Public Speaking to increase critical thinking skills and confidence.

And given the control university administrators have here over the students and activities - does anyone really believe that I could do this without at least tacit support from the authorities?? NO way.  And I get more than tacit support - I get monetary support (not much, but some!) - a clear sign that this is something the UNIVERSITY (and therefore the government) wants.

There is much to do, and the Chinese teachers and students, and the Chinese government are aware of it.  Things are happening, but I don't believe we can or should dictate the direction these things should move in, especially if we are doing it from an ethno-centric view.
 
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: Schnerby on November 12, 2009, 03:21:00 AM
We should also be careful that we don't compare apples with oranges.  We are, for the most part, teaching ESL.  So to compare on a level basis, we should be comparing the programs run here for language learning with programs run at home for second language learning.  How many language learning programs at home move out of the fundamentals of grammar, vocab, construction etc into asking students to be creative, think critically, research etc in the second language?


It's true. Their high school English is so much better than my high school Chinese...  :wtf:
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: ericthered on November 12, 2009, 05:00:23 AM
I disagree with the statement about there being a gap between learning the fundamentals of a language and learning how to use this language in an academic way at home, and by home I don't just mean my little slice of heaven in Scandinavia but the Western world in general. I had two mandatory foreign languages in school, elementary and high school, and in both classes I was taught the fundamentals of the languages and how to use them academically. Literature and history, music, movies and newspapers were all included in the classes and we students were encouraged and expected to dicsuss them in class.

As for changing the Chinese educational system, we can't. We will never be able to. What we can do is sow the seed of change in the minds of our students. Society must move on, those who are in power will retire and new people take over, it's inevitable. Every class we have is a room full of the potential leaders and law-makers of China. Look at European history, look at what happened in the 18th and 19th Century. Someone, at some point, taught a young Thomas Paine to read and write. That teacher probably did not have any idea he/she was teaching the future author of "The Rights Of Man" (unless the teacher was Dr.Who or some other meddling time traveller). The students here are not encouraged to learn, to use language to express their own opinions. The future of English, of raising the bar of language studies, changing the idea of learning a language not just to ass the CET 6 or getting a government job with the big black car, rests on our ability to touch the Thomas Paine's in our classes.
Language is for communication, for the exchanging of ideas, for recognizing errors or flaws in thoughts and values predominant in society and, by discussing them, to amend or eradicate them. The more and better English we teach, the more we make use of materials that makes the students think and discuss, the more they will be eager and willing to use the language and thus English becomes important for them, as individuals, as a tool to express their views, instead of just another thing they have to memorize and forget.

Sorry for the rant and semi-hijack. I'll go clean my bathroom now.
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: Lotus Eater on November 12, 2009, 05:27:20 AM
Back in the olden days when I went to school we had to study a foreign language for at least 3 years at high school, and then again to graduate (which they gracefully changed just before I graduated!).  We had the culture section (history, customs, literature etc) of it - presented in English.   There were not too many French newspapers in Australia at that time, and no internet access either!  ahahahahah

Again undertaking the courses at uni (German and Japanese), the concentration was on learning the language, especially if it was merely to fill in that final credit required for graduation.  Very little else was taught.

This is a current offering at UQ for B.A (Chinese).  You will see that you could undertake the whole degree without having to study one piece of literature - just taking the translation/interpretation or teaching electives. Studying literature or researching in the 2nd language is an elective process, not compulsory.  http://www.uq.edu.au/study/plan_display.html?acad_plan=CHINEX2282 (http://www.uq.edu.au/study/plan_display.html?acad_plan=CHINEX2282)  

This one is from Stanford and the Lit courses are at 100 level - implying that the literature is translated into English - not read in Chinese.  The 7,500 word thesis required also appears to be in English, not Chinese.  Our students here have to read the Lit and write the thesis in their 2nd language.  http://www.stanford.edu/dept/asianlang/undergrad/major_req.html (http://www.stanford.edu/dept/asianlang/undergrad/major_req.html)

China also has its own historical and modern day 'Thomas Paines' - there are many modern Chinese authors, dreamers, philosophers etc.  Our own lack of Chinese language blinds us to this.  We can read what is translated into English, but this is merely the most popular works.  Therefore the Chinese education system cannot be said to be failing the 'Thomas Paines'  in China.  They exist, they write, they protest, they live their lives.  And do so without us.  

An interesting question as a sidelight could be to consider WHY we believe that our educations systems are so much better, WHY we believe that our students at home are more creative, critical, interested etc that we see here.  I have taught students at both tertiary and secondary level who were completely non-involved in the courses, who will never think critically about a topic, who will never create a new idea.  Why do we expect the Chinese student body to be any different?  I've worked with teachers who have presented the same hackneyed work year after year, believing that any change to the system is not useful.  Why do we expect the Chinese teaching body to be any different?

Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: ericthered on November 12, 2009, 06:45:48 AM
I never meant to imply that the students in the West are all an amalgamation of Disederatus Erasmus, Isaac Newton and Søren Kierkegaard. Not by a long shot...All I need to think of were the students I met in Manchester..dear Lord, lazy bunch of...thingy...

But they are failing, in many ways. They are failing in the way that they let the students do the least amount of work and then get their degree. Students come to uni all gung-ho and eager, by the second year they are jaded, disillusioned and morose. Most unis here offer them the same memorize/regurtitate clap-trap they had in high school, teachers going through the motions by reading out loud from power points, showing movies, all such nonsense.

I have lit students who had never been to the library in the School of Foreign Languages. They had no idea how many books were there. They are English majors!!! They should be devouring novels, ideas, theories like they would devour a plate of niu rou chao mian. They are just so used to being told what to read and that's it. All drive, all eagerness gets crushed out of them.
To me, being a good teacher here means restoring that. Nothing makes me happier than a students telling me that, according to him/her, my take on a novel is stupid and wrong and then proceed to tell me why by pointing to the text.
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: Lotus Eater on November 12, 2009, 07:06:11 AM
Definitely having a student argue with you and present a coherent, cogent idea is great!!  Not only in China, but also in our home countries - and I don't think that the vast body of students at home want to do too much more than pass the required exams either.

And again, comparing apples with apples - how many 2nd language majors at home 'devoured' books in their 2nd language??  Of course they 'should' - but do they?? How many Eng Lit majors in their own language devour books outside of the required reading??

I think we need to be realistic in our expectations.

How many 'sit-in's do you have in your classes here?  I regularly have extras in my classes - sometimes teachers, more often students.  A couple will even do the assignments and the exam, knowing that this will not be added to their own scores, but to see how they are progressing.  aoaoaoaoao  They come from other majors, and want to learn.  My English majors will sit in on other courses because they want to broaden their base.  Genuinely how often does that occur at home?  The eagerness for these students has not been crushed out of them.

Many of the teachers here do exactly what you describe, but a fair proportion of teachers back home are not much better, despite the 'advanced' teacher training they've had.  I also have quite a few Chinese teacher friends who are keen to change the way they were taught, and teach using different methods.

When we move out of the ESL area, we can see that different methods of teaching, experimenting, lab work, research are happening.  Students can take their place in overseas universities confidently, given the grounding they have here.   Those going overseas are creative, intellectually curious, ambitious and eager. 

This is by no means a perfect system, but there are many changes happening, being driven both by the government and individually.  I think we need to assess how much we really know about what is happening here before we can broadbrush disparage the system.
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: adamsmith on November 12, 2009, 08:17:45 AM
I read Leb Tolstoy's 'war and peace' in the original russian version when I did my russian language studies. Not that I devoured many other books as this was pretty much enough to rattle my brain.

As to sit ins - well, back in Canada we had many students sitting in the class - it is called auditing a course at uni but they were never allowed to take the exams and they had to have formal permission of the professor. Here I do not allow students to sit in my classes - for a variety of reasons, but the main one is I am not teaching english but business courses and due to the high tuition it would not be fair to the students who are paying it if others are given it for free. As well, I don't like students there who are unable to answer my questions when I ask them and unless they are attending all the lectures they will not be able to.

And having taught in the unis overseas, I can easily disagree with you on how good these students are, although this is a generalisation, I have had many students who managed to obtain entrance into the uni and were totally and inadequately prepared for study in the program as they did not have the skills or the drive to do the work required of them. But on the other hand I will agree with you that our own system does little to prepare us for the academic work required at university as well. I just find that in the west we tend to have more in place in the way of student services that the students can utilize to help prepare them for the work. And we will make use of those services. Here when we try to offer it to them and make it available for them they often balk at using the resources as it just means a little more work for them. And my students are supposed to be preparing to go abroad to complete their degrees. I do get the few exceptions who do really well when they go abroad but in general they have a very difficult time.
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: James the Brit on November 17, 2009, 01:38:31 AM
Not only in China, but also in our home countries - and I don't think that the vast body of students at home want to do too much more than pass the required exams either.

As a current undergrad in the uk, that's oh so true.

And again, comparing apples with apples - how many 2nd language majors at home 'devoured' books in their 2nd language??  Of course they 'should' - but do they?? How many Eng Lit majors in their own language devour books outside of the required reading??

And true again.
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: ericthered on November 17, 2009, 03:06:30 AM
Well, I don't know what Eng lit majors you've been hanging out with but the ones I studied with devoured books by the wagon-load.
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: teacheraus on November 18, 2009, 10:09:54 AM
I don't think I will ever forget the fact that almost every group of students who answered one of my first questions to them in my first lesson which was "Why is learning English important to you?" with an answer along the lines of "so I can read and learn from all the books written in English in the area I am studying".  I am teaching Advanced Oral English to students who are not English majors but who are studying in many Engineering, Scientific, Computing, Business fields. I am enjoying teaching them and learning from them. They are motivated to learn and seem to like it most when we are talking about topics that are a little challenging. I have also watched in several classes simple discussions about differences in the Chinese and Australian school systems turn into discussions (instigated by them in their reporting back to the class) about what changes they would like to see in the school system of their country. A couple of them even have the ambition of becoming a teacher and working to bring change.
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: Magnus1977 on January 15, 2010, 06:40:24 PM
Bentham... I went to that Middlekingdomlife website... great site. never heard of it. but glad I found it!  Thanks!
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: cobra on January 17, 2010, 12:41:57 PM

Being a good teacher in China is a popularity contest. If you are popular with your students, then you are a good teacher. The worth of a teacher is measured by their personality rather than their pedagogical skills. Good classes are those that are fun as opposed to those where students increase their ability in the English language.

I completely agree with the words above!
Chinese think: Foreign teachers must make their class fun by playing games, singing songs, sometimes even dancing like a stupid monkey in front of the class. But if you try to make your students read a book, or do some exercise to improve grammar; they will think your class is very boring and you are unexperienced teacher.
So there is no way out in China, lets play games!!!!!!! I don't have anything against games , but when they are dominating on each class and students do nothing, but play games, and scream : Play a game!!! Play a game!!! It makes us think deeply about chinese education.



Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: Lotus Eater on January 19, 2010, 03:05:38 AM

Chinese think: Foreign teachers must make their class fun by playing games, singing songs, sometimes even dancing like a stupid monkey in front of the class. But if you try to make your students read a book, or do some exercise to improve grammar; they will think your class is very boring and you are unexperienced teacher.
So there is no way out in China, lets play games!!!!!!! I don't have anything against games , but when they are dominating on each class and students do nothing, but play games, and scream : Play a game!!! Play a game!!! It makes us think deeply about chinese education.


NO NO NO NO NO!!

This is definitely a 'GIGO' situation.  Have a look at the results ETR is getting is getting with his Lit classes, look at the triumph old34 had with his Drama production.  There are many teachers on this board who are putting in a professional effort and are getting results!  Check the teacher's tips sections for good lessons that work without playing games.

The majority of students react as they have been previously taught.  If they've had foreign teachers of the backpacker or the lazy 'here for the girls and cheap beer' ilk, yes, then they will expect games.  But if they haven't had an FT before, or have had good ones, then they expect to WORK!

From my experience, the students will respect a good teacher, respect the amount of work put in and in the semester teacher assessments they will say so.  I've seen teachers here that were not 'popular' with the students; they failed students, they pushed them to work, but the students (and admin and Chinese teachers) respected it and it came out in the evaluation.

Maybe it should make us think more about the teachers that have come before us, and the teachers who come here thinking that.  
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: ericthered on January 19, 2010, 03:47:36 AM
I absolutely and completely refuse to play games in class! If I was teaching at EF or at middle school level, yes, games of an educational nature would be feasible, but not at a university.
I find that it helps both in class participation and rasing the students interest in the topic taught when I treat them as I was treated by my professors at uni. Treat people like children and they behave accordingly, treat them as mature, intelligent grown-up's and they gradually stop behaving like children.
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: cobra on January 19, 2010, 03:57:23 AM

The majority of students react as they have been previously taught.  If they've had foreign teachers of the backpacker or the lazy 'here for the girls and cheap beer' ilk, yes, then they will expect games.  But if they haven't had an FT before, or have had good ones, then they expect to WORK!

From my experience, my students react as they have been previously taught. (You are right here)The previous teacher used to play games with them on every class. Now they expect the same from me. The school I am working in now, changes FT every semester. Students got used to see a new FT every year, and they don't have any feeling now, (like the students who have never been taught by FTs), sometimes they don't respect FTs at all.


Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: MK on January 19, 2010, 04:03:47 AM
This thread reeks.  It's like being at Dave's again.
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: Gaomeigeng on March 11, 2010, 03:41:46 PM
I don't think it's fair to classify China as a society that values style and substance above excellence just because the kids prefer clowns to teachers...I mean, that's pretty universal.  It's just in the nature of the children to want to go to class if their teacher is putting on a show for them, whereas they get real teachers all day long...and esl schools are about money, so if the kids are happy and the parents are paying, they don't care if you don't teach them a lick of English.  HOWEVER, I have found that my students love me and want to take my classes again and again, not because I am a dancing monkey, but because I am a good teacher who has engaging lessons and actually provides structure and discipline which children crave...believe it or not.
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: The Local Dialect on March 11, 2010, 03:56:36 PM
I don't think it's fair to classify China as a society that values style and substance above excellence just because the kids prefer clowns to teachers...I mean, that's pretty universal.  It's just in the nature of the children to want to go to class if their teacher is putting on a show for them, whereas they get real teachers all day long...and esl schools are about money, so if the kids are happy and the parents are paying, they don't care if you don't teach them a lick of English.  HOWEVER, I have found that my students love me and want to take my classes again and again, not because I am a dancing monkey, but because I am a good teacher who has engaging lessons and actually provides structure and discipline which children crave...believe it or not.

This is 100% true. It is also true that aside from structure and discipline, kids actually do love learning. It is built into them, learning is a child's greatest purpose in life, what they are literally programmed to do from the moment they're born, and something that almost all children derive pleasure from if left to their own devices. Often the love of learning is forgotten and learning becomes a task or a chore rather than a joy, but learning and fun do not have to be mutually exclusive.
Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: Stil on March 11, 2010, 11:23:11 PM

learning and fun do not have to be mutually exclusive.

Title: Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
Post by: Borkya on March 14, 2010, 02:01:13 AM
I tend to get really excited when I am teaching a subject I love (writing and reading) and a lot of students have told me that sometimes I look like an excited little kid in class (oh great--there goes my cool image) but that it makes them excited to learn about the things I like so much so I guess I don't mind so much.

I actually write educational books for kids but we make sure that it is "accidental" learning. That they don't realize they are learning. I try to bring that philosophy into class as much as I can.