29.02.2008 - 30.03.2008
We feel like we are working for a living once again because of the demanding schedule. Nanette has been enjoying her pronunciation class with the middle level students. Pronunciation is one of their major challenges, but they do a lot of laughing and things seems to going well. Teaching world history, which is basically European history, is more difficult. The American textbook has very little about what was happening in China at the same time as the Industrial Revolution, WW I ,etc., and so it is hard to make it relevant or interesting.
Left to right, Amy,Sally,Leo, Annie, Cecilia, Lucy
Three times a week I teach what amounts to a cultural history class to the more advanced students. I have asked them each to give a short oral report, based on different African countries, which is what we are studying now. They all go to the internet, print out a few pages, and then read them in class. It has been difficult to get them to use their own words (in English of course), and to really think about what they are reading. They often put in lots of details, but seem to miss the important points. I think that language difficulties are only part of the problem, The way they do the reports seems to reflect the way they have been taught in the past, which is to memorize a lot of information, and to be criticized heavily if they forget something. Thinking for themselves is not something that is important. Maybe the government wants to keep it this way, but it appears to be deeply engrained in the culture. Of course, the students are here to learn English, and not world culture and history. It is not clear to us as to why these courses are even part of the curriculum, but that is not something we have any say about.
Another factoid about their educational system is that most kids work hard in high school in order to pass difficult exams to get into college. Once they get in however, there is much less work in the university, and apparently they often spend time drinking beer and goofing off. Seems a little backwards. Corruption also plays a big part, and as long as their names are on the list of a good college, how much work they do doesn't seem to matter. Money often changes hands in this process.
Almost all of the students at WECL study English because they plan to go into business. That is where the money is in this so called communist country.
Stephanie with brother William, John on right. Mars is the tall one on left of 2nd picture
My level one students, pictured above, are quite a mixed bag. Some are much better than others and far more serious, and there are several who seem to do no work whatsoever. Sometimes it seems as though their rich parents sent them to WECL because they didn't know what else to do with them. William, is one of the brighter students in class, though he doesn't work real hard. He has spent much of his life growing up in the Phillipines. John on the other hand, does work hard, but may have some learning problems, at least with English, because his progress is very slow. Mars, (interesting name choice), is the son of professors, and is also bright, but puts in little effort. He belongs in the next level, but chooses this one. Baron and Kevin, not pictured, are total slouches, but we enjoy playing ping-pong together and going out to the nearby Taiwanese restaurant for mango-ice. And Happy, by far the youngest in the class at 15, works very hard and is from a poor background. We love her, and have become practically her surrogate parents. She is teased by the others because of her age, and often prefers to spend time with us.
Happy with Yours Truly
Unfortunately I have to teach a grammar class for this group which is not my strong suit, and certainly not theirs either. Because we are only here for one semester, it seems that Bob, the head teacher, has picked out many of the more difficult classes for us, grammar included.
My evening students, considerably older, have proven to be a delight. For example, Mathhew is a 40 something engineer who is married, and willing to discuss almost anything, including politics. Betty, a few years younger, is a middle-class woman with a school age child. She lives with her husband's family in a small apartment. She has taken to discussing some of her problems with her controlling mother in law, while living in close quarters. Amy is single, in her late 20's, somewhat less sophisticated than Mathhew, but very friendly and helpful.
Nanette and Amy