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Author Topic: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China  (Read 13148 times)

ericthered

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Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« Reply #30 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.
"Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination." Oscar Wilde.

"It's all oojah cum spiffy". Bertie Wooster.
"The stars are God's daisy chain" Madeleine Bassett.

Lotus Eater

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Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« Reply #31 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  

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

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?

« Last Edit: November 12, 2009, 05:46:35 AM by Lotus Eater »

ericthered

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Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« Reply #32 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.
"Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination." Oscar Wilde.

"It's all oojah cum spiffy". Bertie Wooster.
"The stars are God's daisy chain" Madeleine Bassett.

Lotus Eater

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Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« Reply #33 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.

adamsmith

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Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« Reply #34 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.

James the Brit

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Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« Reply #35 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.

ericthered

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Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« Reply #36 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.
"Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination." Oscar Wilde.

"It's all oojah cum spiffy". Bertie Wooster.
"The stars are God's daisy chain" Madeleine Bassett.

teacheraus

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Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« Reply #37 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.
Sometimes it seems things go by too quickly. We are so busy watching out for what's just ahead of us that we don't take the time to enjoy where we are. (Calvin and Hobbs)

Magnus1977

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Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« Reply #38 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!
One and only Chinese/English Comic strip on the web.  See my profile for the website!

cobra

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Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« Reply #39 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.




Lotus Eater

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Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« Reply #40 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.  

ericthered

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Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« Reply #41 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.
"Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination." Oscar Wilde.

"It's all oojah cum spiffy". Bertie Wooster.
"The stars are God's daisy chain" Madeleine Bassett.

cobra

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Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« Reply #42 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.



MK

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Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« Reply #43 on: January 19, 2010, 04:03:47 AM »
This thread reeks.  It's like being at Dave's again.

Gaomeigeng

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Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« Reply #44 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.
"If she says she can do it, then she can do it! She don't make false claims!" - David Bowie