Monday, August 30, 2010

August 30th: Back to Work

After one short weekend to recuperate, it's back to class today! I don't mind getting started, though. I've got a lot of plans for this semester, and I'm ready to get started! Like last semester, I'm teaching a Writing course for sophomore English majors. I have four classes a week: Monday at 8 AM (ick, too early--I am not a morning person!), Tuesday at 2 PM, Wednesday at 2 PM, and Friday morning at 8 AM again. My first reaction is to complain loudly that I have TWO classes at eight in the morning...but then when I think about it I realize I should be grateful. When I was teaching at a high school in the states last winter, I had to be at the school at seven, which meant getting up around 5:30 and leaving the house around 6:30, though I often
annoyed my mother, with whom I carpooled, by not getting going until more like 6:45. And that was every day...so two mornings with a class at eight, when I just have a ten minute walk to arrive, should be wonderful. But I'm whining anyhow... :)

This week in my classes I'm introducing myself and the course, and then I'm getting groans from the students on the first day by making them play the Name Game. You know, the game where the first person says their name and something they like to do (or whatever piece of trivia you ask for). Then the second person introduces themselves, "Hi, I'm Lucy," and also the first person, "...and this is Sally." The third person introduces themselves and the other two, "I'm Lucky, and they are Lucy and Sally." And so on, until the person at the end (me) has to remember all of them. I made them play for my own benefit, as I knew it would be a big jump start to me in learning their names--I used it in my geometry classes in the states, too. However, I found that this is my students' first semester together as a class--from here on out, they will be with this same group of students for all of their core classes for the next three years. They were still getting to know each other even in Chinese; they certainly hadn't learned each others' English names yet, so I think the game helped for them to start getting used to the English names as well.

As usual, I have plenty of students with the names that are popular choices among the Chinese students: Lucy, Linda, Jane, Rita, Jack, Tina, Sophia, Jenny, Sandy, etc. There's always a few interesting stories thrown in, though--I'm still trying to figure out Crab, Maple, Djinn, Lemon, YoYo, Bruce Lee, Witch, Sweety, and my personal favorite, Mes Zeathal. I've asked twice and still haven't quite figured out how to remember to pronounce that last one. It has all sorts of meaning built into it, I remember, but I doubt anyone but her will ever fathom it.

It's something we English teachers talk about among ourselves every semester--how should we approach bizarre names? On one side, your name is your name. It's their choice, and I should call them as they request. On the other hand, should we intervene in the case of offbeat names? After all, if this person continues to use their English name after they get out of college, either with their foreign friends or even with foreign business colleagues, it would be to their benefit to not be called Lemon. It just doesn't convey a very competent vibe...or, in the case of Witch, could even be offensive or embarrassing to some. Already I can see that I probably won't be a hurry to call on her in class, because I'm a bit uncomfortable calling this beautiful young girl "Witch." Hey, maybe she's on to something... One way to get out of class participation! But it is a bit of a question to consider--my student Timmy last year consistently spelled his name Timy. Should I respect that he spells his name as he wishes (as we do in the United States--we have many ways to spell the same name)? Does he spell it that way as a way to personalize it, or does he just really not know how to spell it (I suspect the latter)? Sometimes I do try to point out spellings like his that are likely to result in mispronunciation--an American reading Timy would likely say Time-y, not Timmy.

All of my classes seem to be well-mannered and friendly so far--I was surprised by their willingness to overcome their shyness and take advantage of the time I opened up for questions. Most of their questions made for good discussion: Why did you decide to move to Jingzhou? Have you had any culture shock yet? What did you do over the summer vacation? There's always a few that dare to get a bit more personal, though: "Tell us about your boyfriend!" I'm glad they seem to be willing to talk, at least!

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