Friday, March 12, 2010

March 12th: First Week of Classes

Today was the end of my third week teaching.  I have four classes, all of them the same sophomore writing class.  Three of my classes are in building 11, which is the gray building with red trim pictured here. The classroom picture is the room I teach in on Mondays at two, but my first two classes on Friday meet in identical rooms.  On Fridays when I have three classes, I feel like I am covered in chalk dust by the time I finish.  Chalkboards scare me, but I'm trying to face them without too much trepidation...I'm just terrified of slipping and scratching a fingernail against the board.  I'm getting the shivers just writing the thought here.  It doesn't help that whenever I use a
full piece of chalk, it invariably snaps in half after a line or two.  However, the half-pieces seem to write a lot smoother in the end.  And to think...when I was four years old, I declared that I would be a teacher when I grew up, because I wanted to write on the chalkboard.  Well, I am a teacher, but now chalkboards are definitely a con instead of a pro! 

I have about thirty students in each class.  They all have chosen English names to use in their English classes and when conversing with us foreigners (who usually butcher their Chinese names). Most of them have picked pretty normal names--Kristy, May, Linda, Jenny, Anna, Peter, Jack--but some have been more creative.   I also have a Sunflower, Breeze, White, Clivia, and I can't forget Che Guevara.  Che Guevara is aware that I find his name odd, and that it isn't even English, for that matter, but he seems to think it's cute to name himself for a revolutionary.  College guys are the same anywhere, I suppose. 

The first week, I spent some time introducing myself, and each student had to introduce themselves in English, so that I could begin learning their names.  They had to tell their English name, where they are from, and something that they are good at.  My Monday class, apparently, is obsessed with badminton.  It is quite popular here--there's a group of students who play almost nightly one the sidewalk in front of my apartment building, in the circle of light under the street light.  Many of the boys are devoted to basketball; famous NBA stars are traditionally a major source for English names.  The students' favorite things to do include reading novels, playing badminton/basketball/volleyball/ping pong, eating, dancing, sleeping, and singing karaoke at the dozens of KTV (karaoke) bars that seem to be on every corner.  After we finished our introductions, they wrote their first journal entry for the class, answering why they chose to be an English major, what their goals for the semester are, and how they plan to use English in the future.  Then, I read a story about a soldier who lost his legs in the war in Iraq but then learned to ski, from the March 2010 issue of Reader's Digest.  They answered some questions about the story in their journals.  The last question was, "How would you feel/act in his situation?" 

I took up everything they wrote the first day in class, so I could get a better idea of their writing skills.  Overall, the students write fairly well; at least, they are understandable.  There are various little glitches--often things that would seem to fit the rules, but we contrary English speakers just don't say it that way.  Reading their papers was a good way to start getting to know them, too. Their responses to that last question did highlight the closeness of families here: One of the most common responses to the question about losing both legs was that while of course they would be depressed and devastated at first, they would find the courage and strength to make the best of the situation for the sake of their parents, who would be just as devastated as they would be. 


Anonymous said...

The chalkboards remind me of MrG's in my high school science lab class. The first time I actually saw one of those used quite regularly, minus the only other preious one in the JH science room.
I wish you all the best in every teaching opportunity that you have in China.
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.....

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