Monday, July 12, 2004

first day of teaching

today was the first day of teaching, sort of. we got to meet our "homeroom" class and introduce ourselves to each other. i was genuinely impressed by them. i simply can't imagine so many americans participating in a program like this about the chinese language. from what i can tell, almost every chinese student [other than those in the most rural villages] starts learning english, and japanese, at about 10 years old.

as for the nuts-and-bolts, i asked them to introduce themselves, tell their age-major-hometown, and whether they had ever had any pets or knew anything about baseball. they all rose to the front of the room and did at least an adequate job. a couple of them were outstanding. after this, i introduced the curriculum, then since we were ahead of schedule [the welcome group meeting that was charted to take 2+hours only took one hour] i simply answered questions about america. i thought some of them showed that they had thoguht about their own culture enough to wonder if other cultures were different: do you have a close emotional relationship with your parents? who is your idol? how many countries have you been to? how many languages do you speak? there were also simple questions: do you have your own apartment? what are your hobbies? it was nice to tell them about america, not because it is a perfect country, but because i could see they were thinking critically about it...something perhaps not that many americans themselves do.

when i was talking with my class today, i was almost ashamed at the lack of language-learning that we do in america. seems to me that learning language is so much more than learning simply how to speak. learning language is learning culture. and that is what the chinese and so many other people are doing. they start early, they learn more than one foreign language, and they genuinely seemed intrigued and interested in other cultures. when i told them that foreign language learning in america generally didn't start until high school and then it was only for 2-3 years, they were incredulous. i am not sure if they were disappointed because they held america in high esteem, or if i was confirming their suspicions that america was insular and self-absorbed. one perceptive student prefaced a follow-up question with "but america is a very young country..." which at least shows she is thinking about issues with a historical perspective. i have heard this same sentiment in europe. maybe we as a country are in our "terrible twos"...after finishing two centuries of relatively tolerable/understandable behavior, we have now grown to be demanding and assertive and offensive.

more nuts-and-bolts: we are eating all our meals in the hotel dining room. this system is great for me since i am used to living above a restaurant and having easy access to food. ha! however, the cooks are still negotiating to figure out how best to serve us. sadly, the first day we were here, they bombarded us with way too much food, and some of the more timid members of the group started to rebel against the sauces and lack of plain, bland food [which they are apparently used to eating back home]. now we are getting too little food, and it is boring. dishes like plain tofu. not that there isn't always at least a dish or two at each meal which has good flavor, but we have gone from one extreme to the other. i am sure the pendulum will swing back to the middle soon. i am not getting involved though i have made a passive aggressive comment in small-group situations that maybe we should have one of the two 10-person tables be for people who want plain, bland, american-style food, and the other table for people who came to china to eat the way chinese do.

that's all for now. i will try to get some photos back to mom soon and if you want to see them you can ask, instead of receiving photos you may not want :]


<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?