Saturday, July 17, 2004

end of week 1

so the first week is over. it was a good one, really. it started on monday for a half-day with my "homeroom" class, with me mainly doing the talking, explaining about the program. i think i had them do their self-introductions that day. most of them in each class don't really know each other. i started the morning with a poem by maya angelou, On the Pulse Of favorite poem. this is the way i start every class at OSU as well, so it gave me some continuity and a feeling of: i've done this before, it's just teaching, etc. however, i hadn't learned how to use the AC units in my class yet--upright, in the corners, and free-standing--so i literally had sweat dripping off my brow. so that was unfortunate, but i think the students were able to focus on the poem, and not me :]

the next day, our first full day of teaching, i had my homeroom class again. nothing worked quite right--my VHS tapes of a baseball game and my friends talking about their pets hadn't been digitized yet--and i struggled with the technology--there is one master control panel, and of course most the buttons are in chinese. i have since figured this out, but i felt like a bumbler this day, that's for sure. as for my homeroom students, interestingly, 7 of the 23 were law students. it is an undergraduate degree here. also, 2 of the students are only 17 years old...and they only recently turned 17!! i've had students this young before, but usually not ones who have already finished a year of college and are still that young. in general, the students seem very very young, but also very very engaged. they are definitely critical thinkers, and one thing they have thought a LOT about is america. they know about our history, about the amazing personal freedoms in our country, but also about the legacy of struggle for african americans [they say "negroes" still] and women.

after day 2, the revolving door started. i saw three more unique groups the rest of the week, and there are 16 more to come. the interesting thing is, each day there is the gamut of emotions a teacher feels every quarter, or every semester: nervous anticipation about the new people behind the door when you first walk in, but also a feeling of loss at the end of the "term"...each day, i say goodbye to another group of students who i have connected with and gotten to know and like. so in that regard it is hard. i tell them to say "hi bob" when they see me around the building or campus, and they generally do. also, i give them the address to a hotmail account at the end of the day, and tell them they can write to me. some of them have--all of them nice messages expressing thanks and genuine appreciation. also, they all offer to explain things about china to me. they obviously realize i might have a lot of questions, and they want me to learn as much as they can about china.

another note about the students: they have all been studying english for close to 10 years. they start when they are 8-10. some of them start sooner, 2-4 years old. but usually, in the 8-10 range. however, even after studying a language for 10 years, for most of them [like my homeroom class] i was the first American they ever heard speak the language in person. consider that. it blows me away. these students have struggled hard to learn our language since they were SO young, but always from a chinese person. and now that they have a *real* american in front of them, they are sometimes overwhelmed. none of them have "locked-up" during their short 1 or 2-minute improvisational speeches--they are quite prepared and capable of speaking just fine--but they aren't confident about their pronounciation and intonation, because they acknowledge the limitations of learning from non-native speakers. [i have met plenty of the chinese english teachers--and they have great vocabularies and speak understandably, but their pronounciation isn't quite right...not unlike the french teachers i had in high school, i realized yesterday when i was thinking about this].

okay, this is all for this posting. it should update you about my school-life. i've done the baseball/animals talk 4 times now, and it seems to be working well. they are wonderfully engaged in figuring the rules of baseball [not as easy as "when they hit it i catch it and when they throw it i hit it"...who said that?]--they each get a scoresheet and we watch a game, so that helps them organize their minds about the batting order and defensive positions--and they are also thinking hard about the lives of animals. i can't stress enough what kind of "thinkers" these students are. they are incredibly trained in that precious skill.............blob

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