On Wednesday nights, I teach a corporate class that really has me torn in two. On the one hand, I usually have fun with the class, especially the three ladies. On the other hand, the two gentlemen are way out of their depth and it’s hard to keep everyone learning without embarrassing the guys.
This Wednesday, the louder yet less skilled guy was on business in Hong Kong and that made it quite a bit easier. The class proceeded pretty normally, ending in a discussion of favorite stars and celebrities. At the very end, as we were packing up, the quiet guy who never asks his questions in English, but rather in Taiwanese (or Chinese, out of deference to me), suddenly began muttering to the “translator” of the class, a kind and bossy woman who I cannot stop from translating for the slower students. She said, “Jason would like to ask a question,” and I looked straight at him so he would speak.
And the question knocked me for a loop: “India, 你們美國…..words…..words…..words…..黑人嗎?” I couldn’t even parse it because it was so out of context, so I sat for a minute to make sense of it. He was asking, apropos of nothing, about racism against black people. I answered that it was getting better, but he went on to ask about whether we looked down on Asians, and all of it was just far too difficult to explain at his level. I settled for saying that it’s mostly a problem of language. If you sound American, you’re better off than if you don’t. I also joked it up by mentioning how much people everywhere hate tourists. Too light?
I love these kinds of conversations, but I wish he’d been at a level to really discuss it…
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Posted in Taiwan, tagged 5th grade, 6th grade, Chang Long, depressing, junior high school, kindergarten, me, pre ban, problem kid, Rong Fu, teaching on Wednesday, 23 June 2010|
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This week started poorly and has not been improved by the ever-warming weather. Today continued the pattern: I was tired in Chinese class, one of my kindergarteners came back from a mini-holiday only to be sulky and uncooperative, the very thought of my evening classes filled me with a mild but insidious frustration, and budget calculations show that I’m not going to have any fun until at least September (and only if I’m lucky and get a lot of hours).
Even though I wasn’t looking forward to teaching, I knew I could count on the early class today to pick me up–and was then sorely disappointed by apathetic, mostly out-for-summer 6th graders. Not only that, the problem kid in this class, who is usually not too big a concern, actually caused some big distractions today. I got back at him by withholding bathroom privileges for 10 or 15 minutes which felt far better than it should have.
I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m in such a mood lately, and I’ve boiled it down to job satisfaction: I don’t have much. I see kids 50% of the time they come to class (the Chinese teachers see them every time) so there is a lack of consistency. The school policy of 100% English is an impossibility that serves to create a gap between me and the kids that only the Chinese teacher can bridge. In addition to the gap, there’s the added frustration of resolving questions and managing homework and classroom activities in limited language that the majority of the class can fully comprehend.
And to top it all off, I have discovered I can’t stand teens and pre-teens, who make up about half of my classes. I believe I said earlier that I like mid- to higher elementary school students best, but I was wrong. It’s lower elementary I like because they still have enthusiasm.
Fortunately or unfortunately, I couldn’t stay angry and frustrated because my junior high class actually cheered me up. They were mildly responsive, and then my CT (Chinese teacher/co-teacher) suggested and implemented a seat change so we sat in a rectangle rather like a small college class. She also brought out her stash of fake money so we could start a system like I had in high school Spanish: responses get money, students hold the money to buy test points or candy and class parties. I have been wanting to do this for a while, but I haven’t had the money to buy… money, so I was glad when the CT brought up classroom ideas and volunteered her money for my idea. I only wish she had brought it up before class, instead of just before break. I won’t argue the results, though! I’d be hard-pressed to say the class was on fire after break, but they were more involved due to proximity, and the CT sat in the desk-square and we had a real co-teaching relationship going on.
Another good thing: I know with certainty that I may be a good explainer, and even a decent teacher, but I am not and should never (again) be a foreign language teacher. And it’s always nice to check something off the possibility list and narrow options down.
So now I’m happier. Rebecca, this is how I do it: be angry and huffy in my head until something good happens. When the good happens, let it outweigh the bad.
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I’m grading the final test for my junior high class (who are actually mostly 5th graders) and it is pretty bad for a few reasons.
1) The lack of comprehension
2) The lack of interest
3) The lowering of my standards
4) The few students offering me hope only to have it dashed by the thick students
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