Friday, December 4, 2009

"Hello, Teacher!"

Maggie, can you tell us more about your classes and what you do with them? Either here or on the blog? I feel like I still don't have a good sense of what the teaching part of your trip is like. Is grading papers as fun as it sounds? Because it sounds AWESOME.

Ask, Freya Ariel Bellin, and ye shall receive!

I realize that aside from talking about my student crushes, I haven't done too much reporting on my teaching life here. Mostly it's because I'm still feeling my way through it. I've only been doing this for about a month and a half - and while I teach eight classes a week, I only teach two lessons (Speaking and Reading) and I've spent most of the time trying to figure out how to be sorta kinda effective.

So far in my speaking/listening class, we've done a variety of things: introducing your classmate, speeches on your favorite musician, a mock job fair, an activity where one person describes a criminal & one person draws the police sketch, dictation exercises, songs, tongue twisters to work on pronunciation, discussions about the differences between Chinese and American university systems, a movie, and a few games. So far, so good.

In my reading class, it took a little longer to get the swing of things. We have a textbook, which I hate, and the classroom is not conducive to reading nor discussion. (It's pretty much a language lab with computers) Plus, I view reading as a solitary activity, so how do you build a class around it? It turns out, you get your act together and figure out the computer situation in the room, and make Power Point presentations that correlate with the readings. I like this, because I make really beautiful Power Point presentations.

This week was probably one of the best reading classes I've taught. The text was on American symbols, such as the Statue of Liberty, and what makes something or someone "typically American." I began by asking them to name some qualities they consider to be typically American or typically Chinese. It was easy to get them to name positive Chinese traits: "Hard-working!" "Humble!" "Peaceful!" "Friendly!" "Unified!" They seemed less enthusiastic to name negative qualities, but some of the more advanced students took a gander at it. "Rigid." "Bureacratic." "Selfish." It was interesting to see what they came up with.

They view Americans as hard-working and creative, but also "aggressive" and "racist." I wrote "fat" on the board and they laughed. Ho ho ho obesity epidemic. While discussing the State of Liberty, I showed them a clip from The Immigrant (thanks MOMI!) and we talked about what the statue represented. Symbol #2 was Barbie, and I had some photographs of the original dolls and some of the newer ones. They all knew what Barbie was, although few of my students had them as children. The text mentioned that the doll was modeled after a German joke doll that looked like a "woman who sold sex."

Me: "What's another word for 'woman who sells sex'?
Student: "...Bitch?"

Well, not quite, but thanks for playing. We talked about prostitution for a little bit, where it's legal, and where it isn't. They thought the term "sex worker" was pretty funny. I talked about why Barbies are sometimes considered controversial, which they seemed to grasp. ("Math class is tough!") The next symbol was the "American Gothic" painting, and they loved the parodies of it. Symbol #4 was the buffalo nickel, which I had never heard of, but I guess it's around, and memorializes the destruction of both the buffalo and the Native American people at the hands of the settlers. One student asked if Native Americans are still around, which led to a long ramble on my part about reservations and the government and casinos and alcoholism and poverty. Straight up: I really enjoy hearing myself talk.

We had a quick discussion of Symbol #5 ("Uncle Sam") and I showed them some depressing political cartoons that I had hastily added before class.

Then I passed back their quizzes, which are always too easy for them, and collected the final drafts of the scary stories I told them to write. Some of them forgot to attach the rough draft, and I tried my best to act like a real teacher. "Well," I sighed. "I guess if you don't have it, you don't have it." A couple more students came up to me to tell me they also forgot. "I'm really disappointed," I said. They all looked stricken, but I'm a terrible actress, and I think they knew I was bluffing.

There's more, but I'll stop my rambling for now - our friend Chandler is coming up from Hangzhou to hang out for a few days, so I have to get out of my pajamas and into something presentable. Thanks for following along, dear readers. Shabbat Shalom!

1 comment:

  1. YESSSSS! My name featured in the blog, AND my questions answered! Yippee! The speaking classes seem to give you some creative liberties. I love that you just chat about prostitution with them. Also, I find it interesting that you talk about typical views of Americans. Based on that book I'm reading, that's a totally legitimate thing to discuss and the Chinese have opinions on us, but would we ever sit down in an American classroom and discuss what a typical Chinese person is like? I feel like we wouldn't. It sounds like you're a very creative teacher, and I would expect no less! xo