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Archive for the ‘Teaching English in a Chinese university’ Category

What’s it like for native English teachers/expats to live in Changsha, Hunan, China?

I should preface this post by saying that Julianne and I have not had what I think is the ‘typical’ living and teaching experience in Changsha, or China for that matter.  First off our apartment sits inside a compound with a guarded gate.  A number of Chinese teachers and some other native English teachers also live within the compound which sits on the edge of a military university campus.  Having a guard at the gate gives a degree of safety and security against apartment break-ins and other problems that might occur.  Second, we have been teaching for a national government military university so this has, in my mind, isolated and protected us from what I perceive as the ‘normal’ and ‘everyday’ experiences other native teachers experience when living in normal apartments and teaching at normal schools/universities.  Third, our travel to and from work has been on a coach style bus along with other officers/instructors so our frequency of interactions and experiences with non-government/non-military Chinese people has also not been as frequent as what I think other native English teachers experience on a daily basis.  Those are just some of the things that have made our experiences here different from what I’d say is ‘normal’ for native teachers/expats in Changsha (and China).

All that being said, here’s what I think about living and teaching in Changsha.

Buses

Traveling in Changsha is pretty cheap and easy.  Taking a city bus costs 1-2 yuan.  If you get on a bus with a * next to its name you pay 2 yuan; this is because these buses are ‘nicer’ than the non-* buses (meaning they have air conditioning, for example).  If it’s your first time in China you should prepare yourself for a wild ride as bus drivers here drive as fast as possible pretty much at all times.  This is generally because traffic can slow them down too much and I’ve been told that if drivers are late they get fined or something.  Buses will at times do a ‘rolling stop’ for you to get on . . . and conversely they may not completely stop while you are trying to get off–oh, and sometimes they don’t stop at all and you have to yell (there may be so many people on the bus that they are unusure if you want to get off, for example).  Be forewarned that hard breaking will happen, swerving into the oncoming traffic lane to get around any cars that are slowed/stopped, and other kinds of driving that in North America would get the driver a pink slip, a major traffic violation fine/s, etc.

Prepare yourself to be on a bus with so many people that you may feel like you’re being crushed from multiple directions.  There are no limits to how many people will try to get on a bus here, and I’ve seen people pushing and hammering other people into the doorway of buses trying to cram the person in front of them onto the bus so that THEY can get onto the bus too, lol.

Julianne and I have discovered that the best time to travel on city buses is from 10am to 12pm, and 1pm until about 4pm.  After the insane morning rush hour and before lunch time, and after lunch time during the siesta (rest time) until about 4pm the number of travelers and traffic on the roads is actually not bad.  You will find your bus trip takes a lot less time and you might even be able to get a seat!

Pick-pockets seem to be a bit of an issue on the bus . . . but at the same time don’t think that you’ll have someone’s fingers trying to get into your pocket/purse every time you ride the bus.  I will given an example of how Julianne and I spent nearly an hour trapped on a bus full of angry and yelling Chinese people one time after someone had had their cell phone stolen out of their giant open purse.  The bus driver pullled over to the side of the road and wouldn’t let anyone get off until the police arrived . . . yeah.  Julianne and I joked with our student assistant who was with us at the time (the university assigns one to native teachers to help with day to day things) that we wondered if the police were going to strip search all of us–to which we got a blank-stare-response.

We then had to explain that we wondered how on earth the police could figure out who to detain or who the criminal was when they arrived; our assistant responded that they had ‘special training’ and that the police would look into the eyes of each passenger and find the criminal–LOL! Riggggghhhhht . . . After the police arrived one of them walked up and down the bus searching under seats and looking in the garbage can by the exit door–and then they let off a few people at a time asking each some questions and then letting them go.  The thief was never caught, and we finally got off the bus and continued our trip on another one.  The point of this little anecdote is to not keep your wallet/cash/cell phone/ID in large open pockets or open bags, etc.  Even a backpack is a risk as a friend of ours also told us a story about how she was going up an escalator (I know it’s not the bus, but it was in public) and turned to find a man with his arm up to his elbow inside her backpack ! Be cautious and alert and it’s likely nothing will happen to you–be careless and you’ll likely have a bad experience.

I should also mention that there’s no such thing as a ‘bus schedule’ in Changsha.  The bus comes when it comes.  Sometimes the same bus route number will go by THREE AT A TIME, and if you’re unlucky and miss all of them you get to stand there for several minutes till another comes by.  Also, bus drivers can and will change the regular route at will for whatever reason they want to though to be fair it’s usually because of traffic congestion or construction.  They eventually get back on track but you may have to walk for a bit if your stop happens to be the one they detour around.  Add to all this that extreme acceleration and breaking are a NORMAL part of the bus trip and I think that’s as much advanced warning as you can get before getting on a bus here.

Taxis

Taxi fares begin at 7 yuan on the meter . . . I’m not really sure how much distance per yuan the rate is but when you’re shopping or don’t want to be on the bus it’s generally not too expensive.  The general size of taxi cars is small relative to western body sizes and whether you’re fat or tall or big boned you’ll find it’s a small space to get into.  A metal bar grate barrier sits between the back seat and front seat and there’s usually a small TV playing advertisements or bizarre animated cartoons (you’ll ‘love’ how other ethnicities are drawn–not).

It’s a good idea to have your destination written in Chinese by a Chinese person because drivers often either struggle to undertand native English speakers saying anything in Chinese or aren’t willing to make much efforts to understand you–that being said, we’ve generally had decent experiences with drivers (though we always hand them a piece of paper with our address).

Some drivers will try to ‘take you for a ride’ and you should be aware of this problem.  Click here to read about one driver who tried to rip Julianne and I off.

Foreign Foods

There are two department stores in Changsha where Julianne and I go regularly to get foreign foods: Metro (it’s like a COSTCO) and Carrefour.  Of the two we like Metro better as it has a much bigger selection of foods and other things.

Metro has some of the following things: spices, foreign wines/beers/liqueurs, imported cheese, imported cereals, imported canned goods, fruits and vegetables, a bakery, electronics, etc.

NOTE: During your first visit to Metro you have to get a free membership card.  Bring your passport.

Carrefour has a few things that Metro doesn’t but in general it’s foreign foods section is very small and Metro should be your first stop.

There is also a Walmart in downtown Changsha which has some foreign foods and other items.

Weather

Changsha’s weather is one of extremes–period.  It either feels like it’s cold, or like it’s hot, most if not all the time.  Spring and fall seasons seem to be very short.  The spring lasted maybe 2-3 weeks and then the summer heat and humidity hit hard.  The fall also was pretty much the same.  Winter temperatures, while not as cold as in Canada and parts of America, were cold relative to what we’d become used to in Changsha.  While Julianne never needed to use her Northface down filled winter coat she did want a polar fleece sweater and jacket during some parts of the winter.

The heat and humidity of the summer are severe.  Julianne and I used wide packing tape to seal up most of the windows in our apartment so that heat during the winter wouldn’t escape and cold get inside, and it’s also been working well so far this summer to keep the cold air from our air conditioning in and the heat and humidity out.  The design and construction materials used for our apartment (and I think it’s safe to say for most apartments in China) do not work very well as insulators.  Large size windows with poor caulking and thin/low quality glass do nothing to keep out heat or cold temperatures, and the glass door (our bedroom wall has a massive window and large glass door which exposes it to the elements) leading out onto the balconies (there are 2) of our apartment have gaps at the bottom of the doors and let in the outside temperatures.

Women and Safety

Julianne and the other expat women we work with haven’t had any bad experiences while out and about during the daytime.  At night, however, two of our friends decided to walk home from downtown Changsha after 11pm at night.  During their walk a man decided to expose himself several times as he would drive ahead of them on his scooter, find a spot that shielded him from all directions except for the two girls, and then he would expose himself . . . fortunately that was all he did.  I would NOT recommend female expats walk anywhere alone late at night as the risks are too great.  Add to that that from readings on other blogs I’ve learned that there is a general cultural pattern in China of looking the other way when some kind of violence or bad event is happening.  One cannot rely on the fact that they’re in a busy area and that people passing by will help let alone late at night when there is hardly anyone out and about.

I forgot to mention that during the daytime women generally just have to tolerate being stared at . . . and stared at . . . and stared at for long periods of time.

Banks

Bring everything with you–EVERYTHING! Work visa, copy of contract, passport, Foreign Expert permit, your home banking information: account number, transit number, address of the bank . . . and anything else you can think of.  Do NOT go alone when opening a bank account–go with a Chinese friend or co-worker.  Expect everything to take a long time to do.

Transferring money home . . . ask what the daily limit is for converting Chinese yuan into your home country currency.  Ask what the daily limit is for sending money home to your account.  Ask what the fees are for converting money into your currency, and what the fee is for sending money home.

Apparently there is an income/salary declaration form you can get your visa sponsor/boss to fill out that allows you more freedom with sending money home.

Do not take large amounts of cash out of ATM’s at night and if you need to get cash out try and do it in more upscale and busy areas.  Also, don’t leave cash lying around in your apartment in plain sight.  It’s likely that others may have copies of the keys to your apartment and undisclosed visits may be made while you are at work or traveling or just out.  Add to that that break-ins seem to be a common problem (there are bars covering the windows of most apartments in China) and you should find a nice little hiding place for any cash and valuables that you keep in your apartment.

Hospitals

Basically I’d say the following thing about hospitals: if you don’t have to go .  . . DON’T GO!  Read this post of mine about a trip to a hospital that Julianne and I experienced.

Julianne and I never got around to checking out a place called the “Global Doctor Changsha Clinic.”  Here’s the contact info we found online if you want to check it out.  I imagine it costs a lot more but if the medical and hygiene standards are near or at western levels and the doctor speaks good English I imagine you’ll pay the extra happily.

Tel: + 86 731 523 0250Hunan 2nd People’s Hospital
No 427, Furong Rd (M)
Changsha
410007
China

Otherwise if it’s an emergency or you have no other choice you will end up going to one of the hospitals in Changsha.  Get a Chinese friend or colleague to go with you to translate.  Expect that there will be no privacy whatsoever and that translations of information/diagnosis and other things might not be accurate and/or possible.

In other words–don’t go if you don’t have to go.

Dental Clinics/Hospitals

There is a “Stomatological Hospital” in downtown Changsha that a friend of ours went to and she says it was clean and had good hygiene practice, and that the dentist she worked with had fairly good English and knew what he was doing.  Also, the fees were reasonable UPDATE: I was reminded tonight by the friend who went to the hospital that compared with dental fees back in America that she felt that the fees were incredibly low compared with the ‘thousands of dollars’ she would have paid back home.

Leisure and Recreation

Before moving to Changsha Julianne and I spent our last year in South Korea living in the center of Seoul . . . so Changsha . . . didn’t really do much for us in terms of leisure and recreation as we had to adjust ‘a little.’

That being said there is a fair bit to do inside Changsha: Kaifu Temple, Walking street shopping area, Giant Mao head on Orange Island on the Xiang river, Martyr’s Park and lakes, Xiang river walkways, Yuelu Mountain (bird zoo (very depressing), Changsha Window of The World (didn’t go), Changsha Seaworld (didn’t go), Embroidery Museum (didn’t go), Taoist temple, Hunan Botanical Gardens and animal zoo (very depressing), and more.

If you make friends with Chinese teachers and (if you teach university/college) students you’ll gain access to activities and traveling in a much easier fashion.  Be a little wary of Chinese people who approach you on the street as there are common scams that native English speakers fall for like invitations to a tea room and afterwards the prices suddenly skyrocket and a couple of large boys appear to intimidate you into paying, etc.  Do a Google search to find out more about these scams–and avoid them!

Nightlife and Clubs/Bars

I really can’t comment much on this aspect of Changsha because Julianne and I don’t do the clubbing/bar scene (not regulary, anyways, lol).  For some stories about clubbing/bar hopping in Changsha I’d suggest reading this blog.  You’ll have to scroll back a bit through his posts but there are several funny and well written INSANE stories there.

The one blog entry I do have about going to a pool hall/bar can be read here.

One thing I have experienced (this was after the pool hall night was over) is that getting a taxi after 12am can be hell with so many other people trying to get home too! Keep this in mind when you’re out late at night.

Chinese Food and Restaurants

Julianne and I eat at about six different restaurants fairly regularly and most of the time have not had any problems with the food.  If you go out to eat and don’t speak Changsha-nese or Mandarin make sure you bring a phrasebook with you or if you have an iPod download a translation app.  If you don’t like what I call ‘nuclear-spicy’ food make sure you repeat several times to the waiter/waitress that you don’t want your dishes to be spicy and show them the translation too.  You should still expect your dishes to have some ‘heat’ to them but for the most part–if the server understood–you can expect your dishes to not be too spicy.

Let me stress one more time that you should make extra efforts to be understood when asking for dishes not to be spicy–Hunan province dishes are what I would call ‘chemical burn’ level intensity!

Until you learn the basics of ordering and general restaurant culture it’s a good idea to go with a Chinese co-worker or friend (or expat who speaks Chinese–thank you Amy!) during your first few forays into Chinese restaurants.  Bring an English-Chinese dictionary with you, or iPod with translation app, so that you can help your Chinese friend with vocabulary and expressions they may not know.

If you order it, you pay for it–this is something I really dislike about food and restaurant culture in China but it is what it is.  Recently I ordered a Coke while out with friends and got a glass of ice water with a small splash of Coke in it.  I sent it back twice and each time it was ridiculously watered down–and I still had to pay for it.   If I’d been alone or just with Julianne I probably would have argued the point but I could see that the two younger native teachers I was with would have been mortified if I did that so I just let it go.  I’ve read on other blogs about this particular aspect of restaurant culture in China and how even Chinese people pretty much have to yell and scream if the service/food is crap and they don’t want to pay for it . . . and as a foreigner with no legal rights in China it’s probably better if you just ‘take one for the team’ and let it go if this happens to you–that, and never eat at the place again and tell all your friends not to go too.

Street Food

After reading several news stories and blogs about food safety issues in China I have been a bit wary of eating anything from them.  That being said, Julianne and I have bought meat on a stick a few times and not had anything terrible happen to our digestive systems.  We also get egg-canape-style things at a vendor and haven’t had many problems either.  If many Chinese people are buying from the vendor then it’s likely okay to eat there–if not, you’re taking a risk that you’ll be sitting on the porcelain throne for several hours.

Traveling by train

I cannot speak from personal experience about traveling by train but I have heard several stories from friends, colleagues, and students.  If you choose to travel by train during any of the major holidays in China be prepared for the most insane train experience of your life (the only place I’ve heard more crazy stories about is India)–if you don’t believe me Google “Golden week traveling by train in China” or “Lunar new year traveling by train in China” and look at the pictures!

Bring snacks and drinks with you and keep your eyes on them at all times! Expect that someone will likely be in your bed or seat if you buy a ticket that comes with one and that you’ll have to force them (politely but VERY firmly) to move.  Expect that it will be noisy and packed on the train.  Expect that the toilets will not be clean and that they will be squatters.  Bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer.  If you decide you’ll be able to buy food on the train expect it to be things like chicken feet and other Chinese foods that may not be to your taste.  Expect that sleeping on the train may not be possible due to snoring neighbors, loud children, talking, etc.

Expect that getting to the train station may/likely won’t be easy, and expect that getting from the train station to wherever you’re traveling to also won’t be easy–especially if you don’t speak the regional dialect let alone Mandarin.  Also expect that the travel time may not be as advertised on your ticket and can take hours longer than you expect.

Traveling by plane

In terms of traveling I think this is the best option based on what I’ve heard and read from expats in China with more experience.  Departure and arrival times are for the most part on schedule.  The general safety of your luggage is much better than on a train too.   Depending on when you buy tickets for long distance trips within China the cost of train ticket versus a plane ticket can make taking a plane seem a lot better too.  Also, the seats on a plane compared to a train . . . well, from what I hear there’s no comparison.

Apartment Conditions

In general it seems like native English teachers get put in good apartments–for inside China. “For inside China” is an expression that if it’s your first time living and teaching overseas you’ll likely hear a lot and begin to say yourself.  Relative to the average living space of Chinese people, native English teachers have it pretty damn good.

You can expect, however, some of the following things.

Rolling blackouts (click here for a story) during the summer when air conditioners are running on full blast.  Make sure to back up work on your computer regularly, and have power surge protection on your power bars.

You will have to purchase canisters of natural gas regularly for hot water and cooking on a gas range.

Noise pollution will become a regular part of your life inside your apartment.  Scooters, cars, trucks, buses all passing nearby will honk and honk and honk and HONK . . . and, of course, if you have any schools nearby expect to hear a lot of noise early in the morning, at lunch, and when school lets out.

Check the air conditioner/heating unit vents when you move in because they’ll likely not have been cleaned in . . . well, probably not since they were installed.

Buy some rolls of wide packing tape and seal off window seams and glass door seams to help keep it warm or cool inside the apartment.  Be careful how you do this, though, as there are safety issues for not allowing any air flow throughout your apartment.

Bugs and mice/rats may be a problem in your apartment.

Mr. Mouse vs. Julianne, 1-0 — Tales of Mr. Mouse, Part 1

Life as an expat in China: The Battle with Mr. Mouse Generation II begins . . .

Expat life in China: Mr. Mouse the Sixth gets his death sentence

Drinking water — we purchased a small water cooler and 40 tickets for 5 gallon barrels of water replacements for 400 yuan (prices will vary).

Curtains may or may not block out light enough for you to sleep.  Julianne and I bought some thick sheets of paper and taped them up over our bedroom windows as we didn’t want to shell out big bucks for thick curtains and/or blinds.

Make sure to keep your apartment door locked at all times because all too often in China people will knock and then open the door at the same time if not before knocking.  Also, the quality of the lock on your door, and even the door knob (our’s fell off!) may not be good so you might want to invest in a new lock on the inside or something along those lines.

What to pack before coming to China

1. Medicine – cold medicines, cold/flu/cough medicine, diarrhea medicine, anti-nausea medicine, Neosporin, Neo-Citran (Canada) or Thera-flu (America)

NOTE: Birth control – your particular kind of birth control may be very difficult/impossible to find inside China so bring a year’s supply (or 6 months and have a friend or family member ship you another 6 months later).  That being said, cost of medications is pretty cheap here so if you can find a type you’re happy with it won’t cost you much.

NOTE 2: Google for news stories about condoms and quality control in China–and then seriously reconsider whether or not you’ll buy/use them.  That’s all I’m going to say about that.

2. Bed sheets – Sheets are not common in department stores and those you find are expensive yet low quality.

3.  Film – If you’re an ‘old school’ photographer it may take you time to find a place that sells film.

4.  Spices – If you love to cook you can find quite a few spices (at Metro or Carrefour) but there will be some that are impossible or very expensive to buy.

5.  Clothing, shoes, sandals – Between counterfeit stuff and the risks of being swindled while shopping it’s just safer to bring what you need with you.  Sizes are also an issue too if you’re anything above a western size SMALL back home.

6. English teaching books and resources – Very hard to find and very expensive when you do find them.

7. English novels and leisure reading – Very hard to find and very expensive when you do find them.  Also, very limited range of choices.  If you have an e-reader you can download titles (though your Net speed may also be slow) and this is one way to deal with the issue.

8.  For men and shaving – If you prefer shaving with a blade be prepared to have to spend some money each month.  Gillette Turbo packs of blades run 89 yuan each.  To put that in perspective a large plate of noodles at a restaurant costs 10-12 yuan so you could go out to eat 9-10 times for the price of one pack of disposable blades.  Bring an electric razor with you and you’ll save a lot of money each month.

9.  For women – If you’re endowed with a large bust you will want to bring a good supply of bras with you.

10. Deodorant! Bring at least a 6 month supply with you and if you don’t know for sure that a friend/family member can resupply you bring an entire year’s worth.

Well, that’s all for now . . . if and when I think of other things I’ll add them to this post.  Any expats living and teaching in Changsha/China who think of things I’ve missed, or if you think I’ve misrepresented something or have an error, please write a comment.

For newbies coming to Changsha–good luck!

J

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Today Julianne did her first ever listening exam recording session . . . and I’m happy to say that it was a success in spite of a rough start.

We woke up at 6:30am, got ready, took a bus to the campus recording studio, unpacked the exam scripts, and then . . . sat . . . and sat . . . and waited . . . and waited as the techs had problem after problem after problem . . .

After 90 minutes we gave up and went home. We came back later in the day and the techs finally had gotten everything set up and ready for us.

Julianne was a fantastic partner. Previous recording partners I’ve had don’t seem to understand that moving papers during recording screws up the recording, and would forget or not pay attention enough to know it was their turn to speak during the dialogs for the test . . . Julianne was a pro!

I think we make a great team!

J

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I haven’t been blogging much at all since Julianne and I moved to China and began teaching . . . here’s a post that kind of encapsulates a lot of what’s been going on.

We’ve been teaching at a military university’s English program, and it’s been good in many ways, and extremely challenging in others.

Over the course of the first two months of teaching at the university I met many Chinese English instructors of various ranks, and had several conversations. These conversations led to me being invited to give a presentation on my teaching methodology and philosophy of teaching. I should explain the larger context of the conversations involves a massive teaching reform project at my university that has been going on now for just over a year. The university powers that be want to update the teaching methodology that the instructors use, and I think also the English program’s textbooks, testing, and overall curricula design. It’s a massive project.

I decided that since I put about 3 weeks of work, and dozens of hours of reading and prepping a power point and handout, to post a story about the presentation, and my handouts, because I think other EFL/ESL teachers will find it interesting, and hopefully useful too.

You can see my handouts below, and also the list of my “Must Have Books” For EFL/ESL University Instructors.

Please feel free to comment and ask questions.

J

Last Friday morning I packed up a suitcase full of about half the books in my teaching library, and headed out to do a presentation on my teaching methodology. I was excited about doing this presentation because I’d spent the last 3 weeks reading, and re-reading parts of my methodology books to clarify in my own mind what my current teaching methodology is since it’s gone through quite an evolution during the time I spent teaching in Korea, and now over the last two months in China.

I was also happy that I was being given a forum in which I could explain how I see teaching through the framework of EFL (English Foreign Language) teaching (as opposed to the fractured and confused perspectives I’d been hearing from EVERY Chinese teacher I spoke to–I realized that there was an English program “identity crisis” as far as what kind of program we were all operating within, and I REALLY wanted to address that FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEM!). One of the major issues I wanted to foreground during my presentation was the fact that I thought my university’s English program was trying to function within three different types of English programs: ESP (English for Specific Purposes), EAP (English for Academic Purposes), and EST (English for Science and Technology). I got quite a reaction from my audience of teachers, and high ranking colonels and PhD professors when I talked about that, and later in the post-presentation discussion period I was really happy to hear others thought the same thing as I did!

I presented to 30 Chinese English teachers, some of who were the top ranking officers/administrators in the English program of the military university where I teach. Before I presented, two other presenters gave their content, and it was quite telling to see that they were essentially trying to introduce what native English speaking teachers take for granted about what a ‘good teacher’ is–for example, treating students equally. They were also touching on some aspects of CLT and TBL (Communicative Language Teaching Methodology, and Task-based Learning Methodology) but didn’t really do anything other than scratch the surface in a manner that I would think should be used for student-teachers, or teachers who have never taught before and are just starting their careers–not a room full of teachers with years of experience.

Over the past ten days or so I have been fighting a head cold and cough, and also dealing with my regular teaching duities and the problems I’ve been trying to address with course objectives being unclear, and invalid testing and lack of info I needed to know about the final grading and exams . . . this unfortunately made me tired, and I actually needed two or three more days to nail my presentation materials; I finished my prep and first draft of my power point with 177 power point slides of pictures of my students DOING the things I wanted to talk about, and my 10 methodology approaches and principles . . . I then smacked myself up the side of my head and said, “JASON! You ONLY have 50 minutes to present this material–you can’t present 177 slides no matter how good the material is in that time!”

Thursday night, the night before my presentation, I invited a Chinese English teacher over to the apartment so I could do a practice run through of my material, and try to get a clearer sense of what I needed to cut. I think I already knew what needed to be cut but by the time I was done my power point design it was Thursday at 6pm, and I didn’t have the 2 or 3 days I needed to mull over what I could cut, condense, and revise in order to cull it down to a manageable amount of presentation material.

I even went and re-read Jeremy Harmer’s “10 Things I Hate About Powerpoint” because I knew I was putting too much, lol …. but I was out of time, and too tired.

My Chinese teacher friend had a good response to my presentation, and good suggestions too. I cut as much of the material after she left as I could, but I could still see it was too much material. I forced myself, though, to go to bed and not kill myself for a presentation I was only giving once, and for a presentation I was not being paid a large fee for!

I printed off a two-page double-sided handout with some primary points from the power point, and a list of books I’d be referring to during my presentation (see below), and went to bed.

Back to Friday morning . . . I do my presentation and only make it to point 5 of my 10 points I’d used to organize my teaching methodology. With only 10 minutes left in my 50 minute presentation I skipped past several slides in each section, and got out the key ideas for my last five points, and was done. I was somewhat satisfied with my presentation, but knew that if I’d just had a few more days to prep I could have done something I think might have even impressed Jeremy Harmer a little–him being, in my mind, one of the best presenters I’ve ever heard and seen give a power point presentation (KOTESOL 2007, South Korea).

I’d been given 90 minutes to work with for my presentation, and I’d told the colonel and vice-dean of post-graduate studies at the university that I’d use 50 for my talk, then we’d take a short break during which the teachers could look at the 100 books displayed on a table at the front of the conference room. The break time was a rapid fire blitz of questions from THIRTY teachers all looking like kids on Christmas morning as they grabbed different books I had on the table, and began asking me questions about the books and different teaching needs they all had–holy cow!

I was really happy to see one of the high ranking teachers (not sure about the actual rank) ask me a lot about “A Framework for Task-based Learning” by Jane Willis. I referred to it as the ‘bible of TBL’ during my presentation, and THAT got her attention as she’s one of the teachers assigned to the current massive teaching reform project that my university is currently doing. From what I’ve been able to piece together, she has to ‘teach’ and ‘train’ all the Chinese English teachers on how to teach using TBL, and how to test students too. But based on the fact that the winter and summer breaks don’t seem to be used for in-service training, and that teacher training only seems to be done on Friday mornings each week of the semester with teachers giving lectures with no real training taking place in terms of trainees doing exercises and activities to apply what they’ve been learning about….well, I don’t see how the Chinese English teachers are going to be able to get a solid grasp on what TBL is, and how they can use it in their courses.

A major point that I stressed during the discussion period after the short break and book gazing frenzy was that the current curricula at the university, and specific textbooks I’d seen, were not suitable for use with TBL methodology and testing. This got quite a stir from the teachers, and the colonel tried to diminish my comment/criticism of the curriculum not being compatible with TBL–to which I said, “Sir, you teach post-graduate courses, right? Have you seen the undegradate textbooks? No? I’d suggest you take a look at them and then we can discuss this again. But until then I strongly believe there are major problems that need to be addressed.” I said this with as much respect, sincerity, and neutral tone of voice as I could, and he seemed to realize that he couldn’t back up his opinion cause he had NOT looked at the undergrad textbooks, nor did he seem to be familiar with their testing either.

Anyways, I think some of the big things I walked away from this experience with were quite valuable. Assessing and articulating what my current EFL/ESL methodology and philosophy of teaching was a good experience. It showed me what I need to learn more about, and what I need to read more. It reaffirmed teaching principles and approaches that I strongly believe and practice. And it allowed me to establish more credibility with the powers that be at my university so that when I say something, or criticize something, they know it’s not just a complaining foreigner who ‘doesn’t understand Chinese culture or the university’s English program and teaching culture’–the comments and criticisms are based on knowledgea and experience gained from hard work, and a lot of experience.

The conclusion I came to after a lot of reading and re-reading, and reflection on my teaching, was that I was doing what Harmer refers to in his fourth edition of “The Practice of English Language Teaching,” 2007: “We need to be able to say, as Kumaravadivelu attempted, what is important in methodological terms, especially if we concede one method alone may not be right in many situations” (page 78, my emphasis, Harmer).

Basically, I use a combination of CLT (Communicative Language Teaching methodology) and TBL (Task-based Learning methodology) with some of my own personal approaches to teaching all mixed up into one hybrid form of the two major methods. But in terms of how I practice and apply my methodology there is no fixed formula. How I teach depends on the needs and wants of the specific teaching situation, language learning situation and needs and wants, and the overall teaching and learning environment within which I’m operating. I think that I knew this before I began my prep for this presentation, but doing the work helped me to clarify and confirm what I do, and why I do it. I highly recommend other EFL/ESL teachers try something like this if they have the time and inclination.

Oh, a really bizarre moment occurred after the end of the discussion period. The colonel stood up, and walked to the front of the conference room. He then proceeded to say that he thought I had a lot of great ideas and opinions about teaching methodology, and EFL, and that he wanted to hear more about my ideas. He then said that “after learning more about Jason’s opinions and ideas we may adopt them here as policy and practice at the university”–HOLY SHIT!

Sometimes I really don’t realize how other teachers perceive what I say and do. Sometimes I really don’t give myself enough credit that the hard work I put into my teaching craft, and continually trying to improve myself as a teacher, comes across to such a point as that I’d actually have my methodology used as a part of the basis for an entire English program’s teaching methdology reform . . .

It’s humbling, scary, and thrilling all at the same time.

I just have to hope that some degree of success can be achieved in their reform project because based on this article, The Impact of CurriculumInnovation on the Cultures of Teaching (http://www.chinese-efl-journal.com/Vol%20%201%20January%202008.pdf), I don’t know if they can achieve their wishes.

But I’ll help–if they ask (and hopefully pay more too!).

J

What is a good man?

A teacher of a bad man.

What is a bad man?

A good man’s charge.

If the teacher is not respected,

And the student is not cared for,

Confusion will arise, however clever one is.

This is the crux of the mystery.

Lao Tsu 1997, ch 27

From “Experiential Learning in Foreign Language Education, General Editor C. N. Candlin

Applied Linguistics and Language Study, Pearson 2001

Different types of foreign language learning . . .

• ESP – English for Specific Purposes

• EAP – English for Academic Purposes

• EST – English for Science and Technology

• EFL – English as a Foreign Language

• ELF – English as a Lingua Franca

• ESOL – English Speaking of Other Languages

• CLIL – Content and Language Integrated Learning

EFL/ESL influences on my teaching methodology . . .

Jeremy Harmer

Scott Thornbury

Michael Rost

Sari Luoma

Penny Ur

Jane Willis

Michael J Wallace

Teaching methodologies . . . Which one? More than one? Or . . . Something new?

• Grammar-Translation

• Direct Method

• Audiolingualism

• Behaviorism

• PPP (Presentation, Practice, Production)

• ESA (Engage, Study, Activate); Boomerang Procedure, Patchwork Procedure

• Four Methods: CLT (Community Language Learning), Suggestopaedia, TPR (Total Physical Response), and the Silent Way

• CLT (Communicative Language Learning)

• TBL (Task-based Learning)

• The Lexical Approach

• Teachers-Students Dialog Method

• Post Method ???


My 10 EFL Methodology Principles and Approaches to ELT


• 1. Fun and Interesting. The “Magic X” factor.

• 2. Balance of accuracy and fluency language goals and content in lessons/course design.

• 3. Communicative and interactive style of TTT and STT.

• 4. Task-based learning.

• 5. Transparency in testing/evaluation, rubrics, and process.

• 6. Recode EFL language classroom with communicative power dynamics.

• 7. Games and Activities are a vital learning tool for learning, practicing, and mastering language goals and skills.

• 8. The 7 P’s: Proper planning and preparation prevent piss poor performance. Lesson planning/course design are critical in achieving teaching success, and language learner success.

• 9. “Variety is the spice of life.” Using a wide range of learning goals, language goals, skills, strategies, tasks, games, activities, and topics.

• 10. Empowering language learners to develop meta-cognitive learning skills (or ‘learner autonomy), and EFL language learning skills.

CLT – Communicative Language Teaching, and interactive style.

NOTE: There was a diagram on my handout that I cannot copy paste into blogger.

Post-Method: 10 Macrostrategies?

• “What is needed, Kumaravadivelu suggests, is not alternative methods, but ‘an alternative to method’ (2006: 67). Instead of one method, he suggests ten ‘macrostrategies, such as “maximise learning opportunities, facilitate negotiation, foster language awareness, promote learner autonomy” etc.’ (Kumaravadivelu 2001, 2006)”

From, The Practice of English Language Teaching, Fourth Edition. Jeremy Harmer

Post-Method is my ‘one’ method . . .

• “We need to be able to say, as Kumaravadivelu attempted, what is important in methodological terms, especially if we concede one method alone may not be right in many situations” (page 78, my emphasis, Harmer).

• “We have to be able to extract key components of the various methods we have been describing” (page 78, my emphasis, Harmer).

“Must Have Books” For EFL/ESL University Instructors

Speaking
Conversation StrategiesDavid Kehe and Peggy Dustin Kehe 

PLA (Pro Lingua Associates)

W20,000(?)

Basics in SpeakingMichael Rost 

Longman

W15,000

Strategies in SpeakingMichael Rost 

Longman

W15,000

Keep Talking: Communicative fluency activities for language teaching.Klippel, Friederike. Cambridge University Press, 2004. 

Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers. Series Edited by Penny Ur. W30,000

Oxford Basics: Simple Speaking Activities.Jill Hadfield and Charles Hadfield. Oxford, 1999. 

W5, 800

Getting Ready for Speech: A Beginner’s Guide to Public Speaking, by Charles LeBeau and David Harrington. Compass Publishing, 2002. W14,000
Pronunciation Pairs, Second Edition: An Introduction to the Sounds of English, by Ann Baker and Sharon GoldsteinCambridge, 2008 

W20,000

Conversation Gambits: Real English Conversation Practices. Eric Seller and Sylvia T. Warner. Thomson Heinle, 2002. W29,000 Small Group Discussion Topics for University Students, A Modern Approach to Fluency in English, Third Edition.. Jack Martire. Political, economic, environmental, and social issues facing the world in the 21st Century. Pusan National University Press, 2009. W12,000
Reading
Steps to Academic Reading Level 3: Across the BoardJean Zukowsky/Faust 

Thomson Heinle

W13,000

Steps to Academic Reading 4: In ContextJean Zukowski/Faust, Susan S. Johnston, and Elizabeth E. Templin 

Thomson Heinle

W13,000

Extensive Reading Activities for Teaching Language. Edited by Julian Bramford and Richard R. Day. Cambridge Handbooks for Language TeachersW25,000
Reading Extra by Cambridge College Reading Workshop, Edition 2.Malarcher, Casey. Compass Publishing, 2005. W15 000
Curriculum Design
Materials and Methods in ELT, Second Edition. A Teacher’s Guide.Jo McDonough and Christopher Shaw. Blackwell Publishing, 2003. 

W35 000

Games and Activities
Games for Language Learning, Third Edition. Andrew Wright, David Betteridge, and Michael Buckby. Cambridge University Press, 2006. Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers. Series Editor, Scott Thornbury. W28 000 700 Classroom Activities.David Seymour & Maria Popova. Macmillian, 2005. 

W20,000

Grammar Practice Activities, Second Edition, by Penny Ur. Cambridge University Press, 2006. Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers. Series Editor, Scott Thornbury. Cambridge, 2009W39,000
Debate and Critical Thinking
Discover Debate. Michael Lubetsky, Charles LeBeau, and David Harrington.Compass Publishing, 2000. 

W16 000

A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature, Fifth Edition.Wilfred L. Guerin. Oxford, 2005. 

W22 000

The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms, Second Edition.Ross Murfin and Supryia M. Ray. 

Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

W25 000

Becoming A Critical Thinker: A Master Student Text, Fifth Edition.Ruggiero, Vincent Ryan. Houghton Mifflin, 2006. 

W11 000

Listening
Tree or Three? Second Edition. Beginner Level. Ann Baker.Cambridge, 2006. Ship or Sheep? An Intermediate Pronunciation Course, Third Edition. Ann Baker. Cambridge, 2006 Teaching Listening ComprehensionPenny Ur 

Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers

W29,000

Dictations for Discussion, A Listening/Speaking Text, by Judy DeFillipo and Catherine Sadow. Pro Lingua Associates, 2006. W41,000 Listening.White, Goodith. Oxford, 1998. 

Resource Books for Teachers, Series Editor, Alan Maley. W26 000

Pronunciation Pairs, Second Edition: An Introduction to the Sounds of English, by Ann Baker and Sharon GoldsteinCambridge, 2008. W20,000
Writing
Sentences At A Glance, Third Edition.Brandon, Lee. Houghton Mifflin Company 2006. 

W10 000

Paragraphs At A Glance, Third Edition.Brandon, Lee. Houghton Mifflin Company 2006 

W10 000

Share Your Paragraph: An Interactive Approach to Writing, 2nd Edition.George M. Rooks. Longman, 1999. W13 000
Effective Academic Writing 1: The ParagraphAlice Savage and Masoud Shafiei 

Oxford University Press

W?

Effective Academic Writing 2: The Short EssayAlice Savage and Patricia Mayer 

Oxford University Press

W?

Effective Academic Writing 3: The EssayJason Davis and Rhonda Liss 

Oxford University Press

W?

EFL/ESL Test Design and Evaluation
Assessing SpeakingSari Luoma 

Cambridge Language Assessment Series

W35,000

Testing Second Language SpeakingGlenn Fulcher. General Editor: C. N. Candlin. Applied Linguistics and Language Study. Pearson Education Limited, 2003. 

W25,000

Testing for Language Teachers, Second Edition. Arthur Hughes. Cambridge Language Teaching Library Cambridge, 2003.W30,000
EFL/ESL Research and Teaching Books
Teaching and Researching ListeningRost, Michael. Longman, 2002. 

Applied Linguistics in Action Series, Edited by Christopher N. Candlin & David R. Hall

W22 000

Teaching and Researching SpeakingRebecca Hughes 

Applied Linguistics in Action Series, Edited by Christopher N. Candlin & David R. Hall

W22 000

Teaching and Researching ReadingWilliam Grabe and Fredricka L. Stoller 

Applied Linguistics in Action Series, Edited by Christopher N. Candlin & David R. Hall

W22 000

Teaching and Researching Writing Ken Hyland. Applied Linguistics in Action Series, Edited by Christopher N. Candlin & David R. Hall. W22 000
Culture/s and Cross-Cultural Lessons
Crossing Cultures in the Language Classroom, by Andrea DeCapua, Ed.D., and Ann C. Wintergerst, Ed.D.University of Michigan, 2004. 

W45,000

Culturally Speaking, Third Edition, by Rhona B. Genzel and Martha Graves Cummings2010 Heinle, Cengage Learning 

W21,000

101 American Idioms Harry Collis and Joe Kohl. Compass, 2004. W7,500; 101 American Customs Harry Collis and Joe Kohl. Compass, 2004. W7,500; 101 American Superstitions Harry Collis and Joe Kohl. Compass, 2004. W7,500
A First Look at the USA: A Cultural ReaderMilada Broukal 

Longman

W13,000

More About the USA: A Cultural ReaderMilada Broukal and Janet Milhomme 

Longman

W13,500

All About the USA: A Cultural Reader Second Edition. Milada Broukal and Peter Murphy. LongmanW13,000
EFL/ESL Methodology Books
The Practice of Teaching English, Fourth Edition.Harmer, Jeremy. Longman 2007. 

How to teach English.Harmer, Jeremy. Longman, 1998. 

W22 000, 000

How to teach Vocabulary.Thornbury, Scott. Longman, 2002. 

Series Editor, Jeremy Harmer.

W22 000

How to teach Pronunciation.Kelly, Gerald. Longman, 2000. 

Series Editor, Jeremy Harmer.

W22 000

How To Teach Speaking.Thornbury, Scott. 

Series Editor: Jeremy Harmer. Longman, 2006. W27 000

How to teach Writing.Harmer, Jeremy. Longman, 2004. 

W22 000

Teaching English Through English.Willis, Jane. Longman, 1981. 

W20 000

A Framework For Task-Based Learning.Willis, Jane. Longman, 1996. 

W22 000

Listening, Practical English Language Teaching. Marc Helgesen and Steven Brown. McGraw Hill, 2007. David Nunan, Series Editor. W15 000
Speaking, Practical English Language Teaching. Kathleen M. Bailey. McGraw Hill, 2007. David Nunan, Series Editor. W17,000 Teaching ESL/EFL Listening and Speaking, by I.S.P. Nation and Jonathan Newton.
ESL & Applied Linguistics Professional Series. Routledge, 2009. W25,000
Teaching ESL/EFL Reading and Writing 

by I.S.P. Nation and Jonathan Newton.
ESL & Applied Linguistics Professional Series. Routledge, 2008. W25,000

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Sorry for not blogging much over the last couple weeks . . . I’m still not happy blogging without uploading pics to scatter throughout the posts I write, and I’ve also been insanely busy . . .

Anyways, today in class we began working on demonstration speeches.  I showed my students a video of me demonstrating how to do a demonstration speech (ha, mabye I should say “modeling”). The topic was ‘How to put nail polish on your finger nails.”  Yes, that’s what I said, lol. (Other reasons I chose this video, of about 6 I did as models for previous courses where I’ve taught demo speeches, are that it wakes up the students and gets them paying attention, and it’s just plain funny to watch, lol.)

I explained to the students, cause they all thought the topic was ‘odd’ for a guy to be doing (hey, why the hell not?), that I’ve seen my sister, my mother, and girlfriends over the years all do their nails.  After explaining how I was able to give instructions and do a demo speech on this topic, I decided to say one more thing–and stepped on a major cross-cultural ESL/EFL university classroom landmine . . .

I asked the class this question: How many of you have sisters? And how many of you have watched them paint their nails?

Yeah, let’s pause for a moment, and watch as Jason’s foot gets blown up straight into his mouth–lol.

If you haven’t caught on yet as to why this is a rather STUPID and culturally INSENSITIVE question to ask students . . . consider that I’m teaching in China.  A country which has a one child policy . . .

Yeah! Nice one, buddy!

The students didn’t seem upset or mad or anything bad in terms of how they reacted. It was more like they all did a lightning-fast scan of the room to see who was dumb enough to admit their family had violated the policy (I won’t comment on whether anyone raised their hand or not).  When they looked back at me it was with a kind of surreal are-you-actually-asking-us-that-question-look-in-their-eyes . . . and then I realized what I had done and quickly switched gears and refocused everyone onto another aspect of the demonstration speeches.

Even though Julianne and I have only been in China for about six weeks I thought it’d be interesting to write a bit here about taboo topics I’ve discovered so far . . . or at least topics that are culturally sensitive.

1. ‘Do you have any brothers or sisters?’

As I said before, one child policy . . .

2. ‘Do you like Japanese people/culture?’ Basically, anything to do with Japan.

There is a visceral reaction that has taken place every time anything/everything Japanese comes up in the conversations I’ve had with my students so far (bear in mind this is with one university, and in one region of China, and I’ve only been in-country six weeks).  If you don’t know why some/many/all (?) Chinese people dislike/hate the Japanese this is one of the major reasons,

“The Nanking Massacre or Nanjing Massacre, also known as the Rape of Nanking, is a mass murder and war rape that occurred during the six-week period following the Japanese capture of the city of Nanjing (Nanking), the former capital of the Republic of China, on December 13, 1937 during the Second Sino-Japanese War. During this period, hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians and disarmed soldiers were murdered and 20,000–80,000 women were raped[1] by soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army.”

NOTE: This being said, I should qualify it, and problematize it, by saying that a few students I’ve spent a lot of time with have said to me that they like Japanese animation and comic books . . . so I think it’s safe to say that not everyone (and how the hell would I know considering there are 1.3 billion people here) dislikes the Japanese, and actually quite a few love  Japanese culture and people. (You can see pics I took on my flickr page of an anime, comic book, and cosplay exhibition I went to in China.)

3. ‘I think basketball is boring.’

Basketball is a BIG DEAL in China.  Every time I walk around campus after the regular lectures/classes have ended I can see many students and teachers playing basketball on massive multi-court fields. I’ve been asked several times now if I know so-and-so-player, and mentally wince when I have to say I don’t know who the person is talking about (I actually do think basketball is boring–lol.)

The Huffington Post has a pretty good article which illustrates (in some ways) how basketball mania is a national pasttime here. And there’s a decent history of basketball in China here.

Anyways, I don’t usually make step on too many cross-cultural landmines in the classroom–but today’s was definitely a big one.

Luckily, I’ve spent enough time now teaching my students that they have a sense of who I am as a teacher, and as a person, and they knew it was just an  honest mistake.

J

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It’s been a while since I blogged . . . sorry about that.

I’ve been having issues with trying to figure out how to continue blogging in the style that I enjoy.  I usually write my stories with pictures sprinkled liberally throughout the text.  But I’ve been unable to do that here because of the upload speed, servers disconnecting and reconnecting in the middle of uploading pictures (just one picture seems to be impossible), and some other issues.  I’ve been trying to figure a solution so that I can keep blogging in the way I enjoy . . .

But it’s not working.  Time to reinvent my blog style.

I think what I’m going to have to do is write my stories here, and upload my pictures to my flickr account.  I’ll try to write short comments, and in some cases short stories, under pictures that warrant them.  I think if readers of my blog finish a post and then go to flickr to look at the pictures that that will work for now.

Anyways . . . here’s a post I’ve been sitting on for a while.

My first day of teaching . . .

I woke up at 6:15 am on my first day of teaching.  While that might seem a little early it was because my first two hour class begins at 8am, and the bus I have to take to get there leaves at 7:15am.  I got up, showered, got dressed, and then headed out into the heat and humidity . . . the forecast for the day was “feels like 41”–ugh.

I walked outside the gates of the compound where there are three apartment buildings attached to the military university campus (there are something like 9 campuses, I think, or 10 (I forget)), and crossed the street carefully (scooters are electric here, so they’re kind of lethal in terms of not being able to hear them coming).  I grabbed some dumplings for breakfast, and a can of Coke (I needed the sugar and caffeine, I don’t drink coffee), and then walked back inside the gate of the apartment compound.

Before I continue, I should explain that Julianne and I have basically learned that we’re teaching at what is essentially the “West Point” of China in terms of military universities.  I knew the university has quite a reputation in China, but didn’t realize it was that prestigious.  Later, once I began teaching, it sank in even more becaues the English abilities of the students are unbelievable.  They are the top 1% of high school graduates in the country, and it shows.  I’ll write more about this later.

Back to my first morning of teaching . . . I re-entered the apartment compound and then walked into the office and out through the back where a path leads onto the campus the apartment compound sits on the edge of.  A short two-minute walk later I was standing at the bus stop, and already wiping sweat off my head from the excessive humidity.  It was going to be a long and hot day.

The bus arrived, and I got on with some other teachers and students in uniform.  It was air conditioned, and while I enjoyed that immensely I couldn’t help but think that I had to get off fifteen minutes later at the other campus where my classes are . . . and that my classroom would only have fans.  Ugh . . .

Getting off the bus, I walked towards three massive five-story buildings along with several hundred other students.  I panted my way up four flights of stairs and then walked into my classroom.  I met the computer technician again (Julianne and I had gone up to the campus the day before to find our classrooms, check the teaching technology worked and learn how to use it, etc), and she turned on everything and then left.

Students began entering the room.  Wide-eyed and curious with smiles and friendly demeanours . . . I relaxed and began to look forward to the start of my class.

The class leader, a few minutes later, entered and introduced himself to me.  He gave me two bottles of water (awesome!), and then said he’d give me a class list of students’ names in English next week.  I told him that was great, and he went and sat down.

A bugle came on over the P.A. system signalling the start of class, and I introduced myself.  I also used an introduction power point that I’ve been using for years with pictures of my family, jobs I’ve had, hobbies I enjoy, and other things I’ve done.  The students were engrossed in looking at the pictures and hearing the little stories about each.

After finishing my power point, I did a listening dictation with minimal pairs.  I began to get a sense of what “level 5” (the top rating a student can get at the university for English ability) meant as we did the exercise.  The students were able to follow my instructions quickly and without any misunderstandings.  When I put them in pairs and asked them to do the dictation for each other to practice their speaking and listening with the target sounds they also did this easily and quickly.  Wow.

After the dictation with pairs, I did one with sentences using the same pairs of words within the sentences.  I didn’t give the dictation myself, but rather had them dictate to each other the sentences with their own choices.  They seemed to enjoy this student-centered approach, and it also gave me a chance to walk around and listen and observe.

Definitely HIGH LEVEL students–wow.  I don’t think anyone in the class was below low-advanced, and many seemed to be intermediate-advanced or higher .  . .

Later, though, I’d begin noticing that some aspects of their language abilities were . . . underdeveloped.  This is not surprising, though, in a culture where teacher-centered learning is still the norm (from what I’ve been able to learn so far, anyways).

Listening dictation finished, I began lecturing with the power point I’d made for use with unit 1 of their textbook: National Flags.  The focus was on the American national flag, and the history of its development.

I began lecturing and the students were at first hesitant with my question and answer style.  After a few minutes they began to warm up to it, but still struggled to give definitions of vocabulary from the textbook unit in English.  I could see that they were used to answering in Chinese (Mandarin), and that they probably also were not used to being asked to give answers but rather being given the answers by the teacher . . . it seems likely there are some learning behaviors and strategies that I will need to model and teach them so that we can move through the lesson content at a good speed over the semester.

I wasn’t able to finish the national flag lecture before the ten minute break between periods came.  We broke for ten minutes and I tried to cool down and mingled a little with some of the students.  My classes range from 40 to 50 students, give or take, and 95% in general are male.

AH! I forgot to mention the name of the course I’m teaching: Advanced Listening.  It’s a sophomore course, and I have 3 sections of it.  All three sections are on Tuesdays.

After the break the students came back and we finished the rest of the lecture.  It was fun seeing their surprise and hearing their laughter as I lectured because I like to make small jokes, and emphasize and stress key facts and points with some dramatization or changing the pitch and tone of my voice.

National flag lecture done, I then taught them how to play “Simon Says” with 25 body part words on the white board.  I wanted to do something fun and not related necessarily to the national flag topic.  It would also let me see how quickly they were able to produce language they already knew, and learn some vocabulary they didn’t.  In addition to that I was fishing for common errors of pronunciation . . . but didn’t really find anything–wow.  The students really enjoyed the game, and we had a lot of fun.  I made sure to use groups of five to six in order to give as many of the students in each group a chance to be Simon.  Teaching 50-ish size classes is something I haven’t done much, but with the military discipline of the students classroom management was easy!

With about fifteen  minutes left I began the last activity I had planned for the day, a look and describe/listen and draw paired activity.  I gave the instructions and then drew a funny picture on the white board and the activity began.  Again, the students really enjoyed it.  I felt happy that my first class at the university was a success.  As the bugle began to play over the P.A. I gave the students their homework (read the next unit for the following week) and said goodbye to them, and they clapped to show their appreciation for the class.  I was very happy.

I then taught my next two hour class, and had about the same degree of success and reactions from the students.

It was lunch time.  A Chinese English teacher met me outside my class and we went to the cafeteria in another building close by.  It was organized chaos with several THOUSAND students in uniform all heading towards the cafeteria.  I wish I could have taken a picture to show you!

The teacher and I went to the teachers eating area in a room next to the massive stainless steel benches and tables student cafeteria.  We got our trays and then found a seat.  Lunch was so-so . . . actually, barely satisfactory.  I just scarfed it down and tried not to pay too much attention to it.  The teacher and I chatted about teaching, about my experience in Korea, and other things.  It was fairly pleasant, and I enjoyed not being asked some of the all too typical questions that a Korean teacher might have asked me (what’s your blood type, why are you so fat, etc).

After lunch I was surprised to realize (though I had seen my schedule for the day) that I had until 3pm off.  Apparently there’s a kind of siesta culture at my university where you take a rest and relax after lunch.

This cultural practice is so institutionalized that they actually have a FREE HOTEL for the teachers to go and rest in during the 3 hours after lunch each week day that there are no classes.  Yes, I said a HOTEL!

I was taken to see the hotel which sits about 3 blocks or so from the buildings where I teach.  You show your ID card and a clerk gives you a room key card.  Unfortunately, there is no air conditioning in the rooms (at least that works anyways).  There are fans, a TV, two beds, a bathroom and shower . . . but no working air conditioning.  I ended up going back to the building I teach in and up to the fifth floor technicians’ office where I’d seen a working air conditioning tower and large couch.  I sat there and read and cooled down for two hours, and then went to teach my last class of the day with the same general results as the first two.

Overall, definintely a good first experience in terms of lesson planning, teaching, and reactions from the students.

Some final thoughts . . . I was kind of shocked to see SEVEN CCTV cameras in the listening computer lab where I teach.  Four of them were like the type you see out on the street, and the others were the bubble style.  The fans worked just enough to keep the students and I from getting heat exhaustion.  I can’t imagine what it must have been like during the heat wave that hit Seoul, and apparently the university, during July and August.  It must have been awful.

The students at the military university have extremely disciplined attitudes and behavior. Albeit it was the first class, and it’s also the beginning of the fall/winter term . . . but I was VERY impressed by their motivation levels and HIGH degrees of paying attention during the class.

I am looking forward to seeing my classes again next week, and can’t wait to experience more time in the classroom with them.

J

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