amberite_archive: (lard bucket)
or elsewhere, I just put together some advice for would-be teachers in a comment:

http://amberite.livejournal.com/515550.html?thread=3464670#t3464670
amberite_archive: (cosmonaut milk)
The woman at the student supermarket doesn't want to keep Fu Xing and can't take care of him for the holiday, so the search for a home has begun. Yes, this is about ten days before I'm to set off on my travels. No, planning further ahead wasn't an option. Every time I've tried to plan ahead for something, the locals have gotten utterly confused: "What, you mean you want to do this *now*? No? Then why are you asking?"

...Interestingly, having fluent English doesn't prevent the confusion, but having good English grammar helps. Past/present tense is one common confusion for Chinese EFL speakers. Sapier-Whorf much?

Anyhow, tonight I asked several friends & acquaintances to step up the search for a local home. (One has gotten back to me so far, with a possible candidate. We've yet to make sure all the care requirements are in place, though.)

I'm gonna miss the little bastard. I feel pretty confident that we'll find a decent cat-mommy or temporary cat-mommy, at least by local standards -- but part of me is going to panic until he's safely in their hands. Not least because I just bought my bargain tickets from Shenzhen for a nine-day sojourn in Bangkok (the fees cost as much as the fare) and now I'm really jonesing to take off into the blue.

Doing the research for this trip has reminded me that there's no way to see all of China or even all of the highlights. For example -- out of my way by an overnight bus ride, there's Yexianggu, near Jinghong, Xishuangbanna, Yunnan -- the wild elephant reserve. Where I could stay in a no-frills hotel in a tree.

Incredible longing stirs in me at the idea of it. I can't afford to go there and also hit Guilin/Yangshuo, and maybe I can't afford to go there at all (at about US $60, plus another $30 for cabfares, it's way past my normal budget) but mein Gott, it's a hotel in a tree in a wild elephant reserve...

I'm kidding myself if I think I'm going to see half the stuff I want to. Damn. I guess there's nothing for it but to return again for a month in some future year.

--

All this, and the finals too! That's actually the least difficult part -- my teaching schedule's lightened substantially to allow time for grading, and they gave me a form to follow for the test; I used material from Simple English Wikipedia for some of it and wrote my own for other parts and worked to my students' ability level, and for the secondary test, for absent students and retakes, I alternated between 'same material, different answers' and 'same answers, different questions'.

They've even assigned me a 200-seat classroom for the written test, so I can test both classes at once (meaning I don't have to get up at 6:30 on Monday, and only have two class periods instead of four!) and still avoid seating two students next to each other: a very big deal for testing in China, as cheating is rampant. In some ways I don't think cheating is really considered to be cheating by the people who do it -- more of that communal culture stuff that's both very clear to me and very alien to me: a person and their friends work as a unit, on everything. Homework, personal life, whatever. So the idea of not doing so on a final exam is quite reasonably out of place in the worldview. Nonetheless, it's necessary to enforce.

The oral finals for most of my students were today, and I finish up tomorrow. I found the format on http://iteslj.org: assign 5-minute appointments to students in pairs, and either at the appointment or beforehand, give out flash cards with simple discussion topics. I used "Food & Drink", "Hopes & Dreams", "Fashion", "Modern Life," "College Life", and I allowed students to collect their cards at the testing session whenever they arrived, meaning that prompt students got more practice time but everyone got at least five minutes to review before coming in. The complexity is provided by the students: that's part of the point. Some of them made their topics interesting, others didn't, and it reflects in their scores.

All in all, it worked really well as an oral testing procedure and I got a better sense of each student's ability from it than I did from the presentations we've had in class. Since both students are asking and answering questions, it's also quite easy to separate their ability levels if a good student is paired with a lousy one, which is of utmost importance for any group testing procedure. Most students were well-paired. The widest point spread I had was a 95 and a 65 -- one of them speaking fluently while the other gave halting monosyllabic answers. The reason he got a 65 and not a 50 was because halfway through I egged him on a little.

No one failed outright. I had a couple of low D's, some C's, and lots of B's and A's.

I grade a bit easy (or rather, I base a lot of the score on effort, and encourage effort at every possible opportunity) because of the position my class has in my students' lives and educational careers. A huge part of my role is getting them interested in English, making the language more vital and real for them. They have grammar classes and TOEFL-prep classes. Learning rules is in their comfort zone. Speaking and listening isn't yet. I'm teaching on the boundary and trying to move the boundary outward as I go, and so I find it less useful to measure what they're already good at than what they're improving at.

Crazy days

Oct. 16th, 2007 10:05 am
amberite_archive: (lovelovelove)
So yesterday there was this big conference with officials from the school's new exchange program. Basically, as far as I can tell, they had various program heads proudly telling eligible students about the oppportunity to study in France for a year. The whole thing was filmed.

All of us foreign teachers were there, and they had us walk around through a building entrance with groups of students in front of a giant movie camera. PR for the school, aimed, I'd guess, at prospective students. Aside from myself and S., the Canadian teacher, both of us independently employed, they have cooperative programs with Australia, France and Korea.

The Korean professor is quite a scholar, and he spends much of his time in the office. He's rather lonely, as no one speaks his language; so he speaks to his colleagues in English. He got a care package from home yesterday, while I was in the office, and showed me the contents -- assorted Korean packaged foods, and some real coffee (labeled "Coffee for Peace, Timor" or something to that effect) and one of those ceramic filter-baskets to make it with. He's also a Christian, as he told me. (I smiled and said I am not, but that I do respect the religion.) Earlier he'd been sitting at his computer singing "Amazing Grace."

The French teacher comes up from Shanghai two days a week; she's sharp as a tack, fluent in three languages, fashionable and has a semicolon tattooed on the back of her neck. The latter is the only one of these characteristics that does not intimidate me. I do think it's a lovely tattoo.

I got to speak with a group of my students longer, including A., the young man who's a star pupil in one of my classes -- it turns out he's a track star, too, and will be carrying the Olympic torch when it passes through Yangzhou next May! That'll be something to see, if I'm still here then.

(I'm doubting I will be, not because of my feelings on the area (I do love it here) but because I simply miss everyone at home so much. I'm scared about the difficulty in finding a job if I come back early, but if it comes to that... when there's a will, there's a way; and maybe I've overused that concept, but I still believe in it. But we'll see. There is still time to decide either way.)

My classes are going... all right. I have the feeling I could unlock a lot more learning ability from the students if I could get them past their shyness. The Australian teacher told me that might take a few weeks, though, and it's only been one week so far, so I don't feel like I'm doing them any disservice by sticking to my present methods for a little while. I do worry from time to time that I'm not giving them enough, or getting them going enough. I've been told there is often a clash between Chinese social mores and American ESL teaching methods, though, and so I think maybe if I have them listening now, and engaging with the material on their own terms, I can get them talking more later.

--

Today I picked up an actual french press coffeemaker at a nearby store! A steal for 39 RMB, a small press-pot and two glass mugs with steel handles. It must have been made for export and repackaged for locals, as the set sports a 'coffee bean' design and there are pictures of coffee all over the box, but the English on the box says "Make Tea Device." While looking for tips on making good presspot coffee, I found this site, which [livejournal.com profile] heron61 among others should love -- it is muchly awesome kitchen-porn.

Now I have real coffee *without* sludge in it! Yay meeee! And I figured out how to get fresh milk too, though it's perhaps a pain in the butt to get any quantity of it, and I'm going to be sticking to the reasonably decent shelf-stable stuff for most purposes.

I still haven't figured out how to receive mail OR phone calls. I continue to be grateful for the offers of cameras, especially [livejournal.com profile] tinuvielberen's. I will update you with the address in English when I have it -- they gave me the address in Chinese but I don't really know how to enter that into the computer and am not sure it would work for international mail.
amberite_archive: (harlequin)
I taught an afternoon class today. First off, the class monitor was accidentally given tomorrow's handouts as well as today's (China is really big on having students be in charge of administrative aspects of the classroom) and I had to get them to collect the handouts back and give them to me. Then, my lesson plan was based around audio recordings, which I couldn't play because they put me in a room where the computer wasn't hooked up to speakers, so I wound up improvising a lesson from one of the textbooks we've got here. The book is called "Oral Workshop: Reproduction" and I'd initially dismissed it, because it's a bunch of oddball, slightly childish stories written in outdated language by some Brit with a bitter sense of humor -- the stories tend to have rather unfortunate wordplay 'punchlines' many of which aren't understandable at my students' level of English. But it does provide conversation scripts and everyone in the class has a copy, which is worth something.

Oddly, I was really tense before class today but now that I had the 'day where everything goes wrong', I feel a lot better and less nervous about tomorrow's!

After class, I went to the large 'supermarket' downtown. I use the quotes because it's more of a department store or mini-mall. They had garlic curls! They also had some boxed milk that met my requirements. Hooray.

I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means Dept: I also got a liter of Golden Embryo brand corn oil.

Perhaps they meant 'kernel'?

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