Merrily we roll along … 2

JISHOU, HUNAN — Hard to believe that the semester is nearly over, but it’s true. Time passes too quickly. It also means that I have been in Jishou for three entire months. While it may be hard to believe, it’s become home for me. I still struggle with being absolutely illiterate in Chinese and being incapable of having even a simple conversation in Chinese, but I learn new bits of Chinese each day. So, I figure I’m making progress. Chief on everyone’s mind now are finals, and for the seniors, postgraduate exams. Anxiety levels are high, and we all are busier than usual. Of course, the students are more anxious than the faculty. This weekend, I need to write six exams to turn into the office. Each writing or reading class has to sit for a two-hour exam. Oral class students need to be tested individually, and I have 35 sophomores, so I’ll be occupied with them for the next several days. Fortunately, I have had some experience writing exams, and I have been giving the students in-class assignments for a few weeks now to gauge how long they will need to complete the tasks. They naturally want the tests ...

The pen revealeth much

JISHOU, HUNAN — It has been raining pretty steadily since last evening, and the temperature has dropped to the mid-50s (F scale), making a tour of historic FengHuang this weekend less than appealing. This past week has been pretty busy on the teaching front, none the least because of my diary-keeping assignments to my writing classes. Now that I have 60+ freshmen writers, the task of reading their journals has escalated nearly to a full-time job. But I tell them to practice writing English every day, so it’s my own damn fault that I have to read their efforts. As a physics teacher, the only student writing I saw with any regularity were lab reports, which don’t lend themselves to creative expression and introspection much. (Though, I have had some gifted writers over the years who played with the form.) I was a little unprepared, therefore, for the remarkable honesty and emotional revelations some of my students put down on paper. My two smaller senior classes have the same assignment as the freshmen. Their thoughts revolve around the crucial events of their young careers: passing English competency tests, passing subject-specific graduation exams, finding jobs after graduation, writing their 9,000-word exit ...

The New Revised Syllabus

JISHOU, HUNAN — I now have a new schedule, which will change slightly next month after we return from the National Holiday Sept. 29 to Oct. 3. The Thursday afternoon class moves up one time block. Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday 8:00 – 9:40 Oral Business English 2005 – Room 4418 Oral English 2007 – Room 4420 Oral English 2005 – Room 4218 Written English 2005 – Room 4418 Written English 2008/g1 – Room 4420 Oral Business English 2005 – Room 4418 Oral English 2007 – Room 4420 10:10 – 11:50 Oral English 2008/2 – Room 4418 Oral English 2008/g2 – Room 4421 Written Business English 2005 – Room 4218 Oral English 2008/1 – Room 4418 Oral English 2008/2 – Room 4418 15:00 – 16:40 Written English 2008/g2 – Room 4419 Written English 2008/g2 – Room 4419 16:50 – 18:30 Oral English 2008/g1 – Room 4218 (until Oct. 1) Sat. and Sun. classes only 27 and 28 September We’re meeting Monday and Tuesday classes on the weekend, so that the freshmen get a full week’s worth of classes. Their military drills ended today. Mercifully, I will get the weekends off again beginning next month. Typical of locations in ...

So many jobs, so few teachers 3

JISHOU, HUNAN — If you have not caught on by now, there is a huge demand for native English-speaking teachers worldwide. That demand is especially acute here in China. Here’s why. Every student has to take English while in middle and high school. College students have to pass an English competency test in order to earn a four-year degree and/or obtain a decent white-collar job. Yikes! That’s a lot of students, and consequently there’s an enormous demand for English teachers. You have no idea. To teach here as a “foreign expert,” you only need to show you have a bachelor’s or higher degree and a willingness to teach. There are hundreds of these jobs advertised every day on hundreds of websites. I signed up with one website several months ago, www.seriousteachers.org. At the time, I was in the States and I got no offers. Once I changed my location to China and my availability to “immediate,” I started getting at least four job offers a day! Of course, I turned them all down, since I am under contract here. And I had to pull out of the email notification service, or I’d be spending all my time saying, “not now, ...

Week two and it’s all good still 2

JISHOU, HUNAN — I’ve finished my second week teaching here, and I can still say I am pretty happy with it all. According to the experts, I am in the honeymoon phase of my expatriation. Everything is still so new to me that ennui and regret have not yet set in. I’m like a kid in the candy shop. True, I will be teaching four more classes shortly, so my life of leisure will soon be curtailed by a busier schedule. True, if there were another “foreign expert” here, our teaching loads would be divided. But things happen. True, I am the only waiguoren (外国人 — foreigner) crazy enough to delve this far into China, so I have more work as a consequence. If the students were troublesome, I would be singing a different tune. As it is, however, the students are generally quite willing to work and cooperate with my crazy American teaching methods. I am assuming the frosh will be as cooperative, if a bit more hesitant. So, yeah, I’m still in the wide-eyed innocent mode. I am finding it hard to believe that just two weeks ago I was still in Louisville, sleeping on my son’s couch, ...

Reflections on the first week 2

JISHOU, HUNAN — So, I survived my first week on the job here. The classes went well (I think), considering my comparative lack of experience teaching ESL and practically zero preparation time before the first, Oral Business English 2005. I can tell, though, there is a wide range of English skills among the students, which will require some careful planning on my part. I have three groups right now. I see about a dozen business students twice a week for oral and written English. Senior English students — 21 in all — see me twice a week for the same kind of courses. And there’s the 35 sophomores I see once a week for oral English. The youngest ones, as you might expect, are the least practiced in English, but do fairly well reciting English passages and writing English. As with most Asian students I’ve had, however, their listening and speaking skills are not as developed. The senior English students are the strongest, but again, need work on their aural and oral skills. These kids are stressing about the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam, the outcome of which determines whether they can attend university in an English-speaking country. ...

When religion and teaching don’t mix 1

Central Ohio is the latest hotspot for lunatic religious types imposing their beliefs on hapless students. John Freshwater, an 8th grade science teacher in Mount Vernon, has allegedly used an electrostatic device to leave Christian crosses on students’ skin, passed out anti-evolution brochures, and taught his science classes about the meaning of Good Friday and Easter. When administrators told him he had to remove a Bible from his desktop, Freshwater refused, inspiring a student rally on his behalf and an opposing response from the American Civil Liberties Union. Mount Vernon school officials have arranged for an independent investigation into the allegations against Freshwater, according to the local newspaper. He will continue to teach, but with an administrator present to monitor his behavior. If the issue were just the presence of a single Bible on his desk, Freshwater would not be in such hot water. As it is, he has several Bibles in his classroom, which he loans out to students. Further, it is clear he uses his role as teacher to impose his religious beliefs on his students. Even if the majority of students share those beliefs, as a public school teacher (not to mention a science teacher) he is ...

Intelligent Design pops up (briefly) in Bloomfield, Ky.

Bloomfield Middle School officials had to tell a seventh grade science teacher that she could not teach Intelligent Design (ID) after they received a warning from the Kentucky chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The ACLU letter advised them that the teaching of ID was contrary to “the substantial legal authority establishing the illegality of teaching a religious doctrine within a science curriculum.” The Panda’s Thumb reprinted part of that letter yesterday. The teacher in question, Adonna Florence, confirmed the gist of the report to me today. I am awaiting details from her, the BMS principal and the ACLU. Technically, Florence’s introduction of ID into her science classes is not contrary to Kentucky state law. At one point in history, Kentucky law expressly permitted, but did not require, the teaching of the Biblical creation of Earth and the organisms on it. As part of the Kentucky Education Reform Act, that statute, KRS 158.177, was effectively repealed in 1990 and re-enacted with substantially the same language as before: SECTION 403. KRS 158.177 IS REPEALED AND REENACTED TO READ AS FOLLOWS: (1) In any public school instruction concerning the theories of the creation of man and the earth, and which ...
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