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Author Topic: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China  (Read 13130 times)

Bentham

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On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« 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?

Lotus Eater

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Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« Reply #1 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. 

« Last Edit: November 06, 2008, 01:07:15 AM by Lotus Eater »

Calach Pfeffer

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Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2008, 04:00:44 PM »
Hey Jeremy.

According to my research... 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

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cheekygal

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Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« Reply #3 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.

MK

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Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« Reply #4 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.

decurso

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Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« Reply #5 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.

Bentham

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Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« Reply #6 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. 

Mimi

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Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« Reply #7 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. 

DaDan

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Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« Reply #8 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.
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Raoul F. Duke

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Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« Reply #9 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.
"Vicodin and dumplings...it's a great combination!" (Anthony Bourdain, in Harbin)

"Here in China we aren't just teaching...
we're building the corrupt, incompetent, baijiu-swilling buttheads of tomorrow!" (Raoul F. Duke)

Foscolo

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Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« Reply #10 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.

Free stuff for teaching English with jokes: ESLjokes.net.

Riz

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Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« Reply #11 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!
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George

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Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« Reply #12 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
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dragonsaver

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Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« Reply #13 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.
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Riz

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Re: On Being A Good Foreign Teacher in China
« Reply #14 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!
"I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals."
Short and funny quotes, Winston Churchill.