… And a teaching update

5 11 2009

So I thought I’d finally recover from my blogging about the Golden Week vacation stupor and post something new, specifically about teaching, since I imagine there is someone out there I haven’t talk to recently. Anyway, right now I’m still working at the foreign language school, and I also teach a night class three times a week at Nanjing University to a small group of students who are transferring to the University of San Francisco.
As for teaching, what can I say? The kids are great, and I enjoy it immensely most of the time. But I occasionally have issues dealing with the school and the quintessentially Chinese lack of organization that goes on there. At this point, I’m more or less used to it, but I certainly haven’t started to feel any better about our lack of any kind of real stated goal for what we’re doing here as teachers, besides prompting parents to pay the 20,000 kuai or whatever it costs for their students to go to the school, because it has such a large bank of foreign teachers. As for the rest of stuff, such as how we’ll occasionally get texts from other teachers announcing randomly that we have mail somewhere on campus, or that class is canceled (the day of, of course), or that we have to go somewhere for some event (generally the day of, as well) – well, that stuff can be amusing, so I don’t get too upset about that.
I have enjoyed teaching, though. I have 15 classes at the foreign language school, each one having 30 students, roughly. I particularly enjoy the Junior 1 kids (essentially 7th graders), who are
enthusiastic and talkative. The older kids tend to be a little more jaded, and they’ve started to realize that, “Hey, we don’t get a grade for this class, and a lot of the teachers show up in t-shirts and don’t have a lesson plan!” so they tend to be a little more difficult. But I really only have one class that is out and out bad. I have a couple where it’s occasionally a struggle to get them to pay attention and/or participate, but all the rest range from pretty decent to really good. I particularly enjoy the Junior 1 class that claps when I enter class. For my current lesson, I’m having them do that exercise where they take a paragraph for a story, then write what happens next. Then, after a few minutes, I have them switch stories and start writing on a different story. By and large, the exercise has been pretty successful, though it hasn’t had quite the reaction that playing the Thriller video did last week. I think Missy is getting upset about the burgeoning Jeremiah Fan Club which has popped up among the female students, though.
As far as the night class goes, I’ve enjoyed it, though I’ve had something like 13 classes now, and I feel like we’re sort of treading water at this point, asking and answering the same questions over and over. The past week or so, I’ve been concentrating a lot more on their pronunciation, which definitely needs work. The students (four girls in one class, two guys and a girl in the other) are all really nice, and their English ranges from barely functional to fairly decent. Most of the questions have been about what to expect from Americans, some of them funny (“Is college in America like the movie American Pie?”), but it gives sort of a nice change from trying to get 500 14-year-olds to stop screwing around for half an hour. More later.
-Jeremiah

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