Typhoon!… Or… not… (This post is mostly about teacher stuff. Fair warning.)
So this weekend we were supposed experience the wrath of Supertyphoon Megi! Instead, it was 80 degrees and sunny. If that’s what typhoons are like, bring ’em on.
But even though the weather was pretty mild and actually quite enjoyable on Friday evening, it seemed that the entire Chinese population of Shenzhen hunkered down and only the waiguos were out to play. This is, of course, a gross exaggeration; but really, I had a student cancel a tutoring appointment with me on Saturday because of the storm warning, even though it was a pretty beautiful sub-tropical day in Southern China. It’s kind of like wearing shorts in a snowstorm because the weatherman said it would be sunny out.
And it’s kind of typical that a Chinese person, upon hearing that there is a typhoon warning, would stay indoors despite what’s actually happening outside. This is actually segues for me nicely into a topic that one of my 11th-graders brought up in class (which, by the way, absolutely shocked me). I was doing a class on adverbs of frequency, and to get the students talking I asked them to use some of the words (always, sometimes, usually, never, rarely) to make sentences about what they think American students’ lives are like. Almost to a student, the answers ran along the lines of, “They always have free time.” “They never have to do homework.” “They usually play sports every day.”
Oh, bless their hearts.
One student, though, when asked to repeat what one of his classmate had said (this is one of my tricks to get them to listen; thank you, TEFL training), replied, “I don’t really care about what he said.”
“Oh,” said I. “Well, tell us one thing he said anyway, then you can share your thoughts.”
So he obligingly did, and then proceeded to absolutely go off for 3 or 4 minutes about how he talks to his friend who went to America, and how in his opinion (this is paraphrased) American students learn innovation and creativity in their schools, while Chinese students learn by rote memorization are basically computers. He essentially said that Chinese people don’t invent things, they only produce what Americans have already invented. And he absolutely blamed the school system for this problem.
Okay, and just let me say that this is a student for whose peers speaking English for 4 seconds is kind of a miracle, let alone for 4 minutes. I was astounded. Where did this kid come from?
He obviously felt very strongly about the topic, he was quite animated and clearly annoyed with what he sees as the Chinese inability to think outside the box. I sort of listened, stunned, for a few minutes, before realizing that half of the class had no idea what was even going on, so I spent a few minutes explaining, and then asked if anyone had a response to him. No one did, of course. Pity– could have been a great class discussion.
So now, more than ever, this is one of my goals with my students, especially my higher level students: to challenge them to think creatively. I’m starting to sort out the different ways in which they do learn, because despite being little automatons (apparently) I really have started to notice different students blossoming on different subjects. I did Emily Dickinson’s “Because I could not stop for Death” as part of my Hallowe’en unit this week, and I had about 2 or 3 students from each of my 10 sections get really, really into it– students that I hadn’t necessarily seen take an interest in the class before, because it’s usually too easy for them. On the other hand, last week’s activity with the adverbs brought a bunch of shyer kids who seem to be really good at puzzles a little more out of their shells. Hooray!
So the typhoon was a no go. Never fear, the season is just beginning. I’m sure I’ll have exciting weather to tell you all about some other time. Meanwhile, I still owe you a post on Hong Kong. So that’s coming up. See you soon.