Tuesday, August 10, 2004

more names and a summary of my day-to-day teaching

today in class i had student named Muggle [he said he had used a lot of english names in the past and would continue to use whatever he liked best each day], a student named Steady ["slow and steady wins the race"], and a student named Bright. they seem to like the nature names. i also had a Sun.

in the last few days there has been: Minus, Beryl, TinTin, TaoTao, and a woman named Silly!!! she said she thought "silly" could be positive and not just clownish, and she wanted it to be positive. sounded good to me.

only a couple days left of teaching. i am left with mixed emotions: i am glad not to have to teach baseball much longer [sometimes it is like banging my head against the wall to teach people who have never seen a game], but i am sad about losing the rhythm of seeing new students every day [except friday, that is].

in fact, it's like every day is an entire quarter or something. i start by welcoming them with my favorite maya angelou poem: On The Pulse Of Morning; and then i do a few hours of baseball [an important part of america's past], and finish the day with a couple hours about animals/animal rights [and important part of the planet's future, to stay in balance with nature].

the teaching has been more rewarding than i would have ever thought. especially the teaching about animals and animal rights. i explain to them the traditional animals that are in american homes [cats, dogs, rabbits, fish, birds], then talk about the many positive ways animals are in our lives [companionship, protection, pet therapy, and service animals (guide dogs, rescue dogs, police dogs)], then i move into a more common way animals are part of our daily lives: FOOD.

at that point i start talking pretty aggressively about the culture of animal consumption and how we used to do it [a hundred years ago] for survival, but how i don't think anyone can claim anymore that we eat meat because we *need* to. my claim is that we eat them because they taste delicious. i talk about vegetarians and the choices they made [for many reasons: their own health, the wise use of global resources like land and water, religious beliefs, and finally the belief many have that animals are entitled to life as much as we are] and build to a conclusion that challenges the students to *think* about why they eat meat... in fact why everyone eats meat, and whether we need to. i also ask them to think about the "right to life" and where it comes from. we talk about how the right to life doesn't originate in the constitution, it is only guaranteed by it. [the right to live presumably existed before any constitution articulated it]. and i finish by asking them to try and figure out that if they have the right to life, and if the constitution of china doesn't *give* them the right, then where does the right come from and why wouldn't animals have it just the same as humans do?

all in all, it is a very intense afternoon. the students usually walk out of the classroom stunned, because they have never thought about this before, and they aren't the kind of students to sit there, roll their eyes, and send text messages when someone from america [a country they have studied so hard for so long] is giving them a persuasive speech about animals. if nothing else--even if they don't accept the challenge to start thinking about what i am thinking about [i tell them i am not asking them to think what i think but to think about what i think about]--they are usually very hypnotized by the emotional presentation i summon up for this topic. in fact, it even surprise me. i did not have preaching about animals on my mind when i accepted this topic. i simply wanted to talk in general about the importance of animals in americans' lives, but the program staff asked me to "lump-in" animals rights so i did...and this is what i came up with. very interesting stuff. the bottom line: don't expect me to eat meat when i come back home. ha!

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