Better than maths?

I try not to watch the news too much whilst I’m here. I mean, I enjoy reading the news usually, but also it gets a bit depressing. The main story dominating things back home is, perhaps unsurprisingly, Brexit. I’ve discussed this in previous posts so I’m not going to go over it again but it seems odd to me that Conservatives, who traditionally support businesses and the financial sector have not really been listening to the people who work there. There never seems to be any positive news emanating from Britain or Brussels regarding this issue….

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A gift from a student. I think the name sounds like it was named by a certain British gaff-prone politician….

That puts everything here in perspective. Chatting with a friend back home recently, I was telling him about teaching here and the positives and pitfalls, and he happened to mention I was like an unofficial ambassador of the UK – and the west. That is a big exaggeration, but some of my students have never had a foreign teacher before – maybe they’ve never spoken to a foreigner either. Some are nervous about speaking English because, in their words, their English ‘is not good’. I tell them it’s better than my Chinese, that we are conversing right now, and that it doesn’t matter as long as they try to speak and take part in the class as best they can. If they feel more comfortable, and less nervous speaking English then that’s half the battle (I think).

Things have settled down now with regards the names, though there still are a couple of issues – mostly students popping up in class, when they have previously been missing. The student who wanted to stay in my class, but couldn’t, went to his Chinese English class last Friday, and he sent me a message whilst in his class to say that maths was more interesting than that class (he is a maths major, though he doesn’t really like it; he wanted to study finance but didn’t get a good enough score in the college entrance exam). He said the classroom was quiet, no one was talking, and it was all just from the textbook. I told him to ask a question. He did – I’m not sure what he asked but he said the teacher said something along the lines of ‘he didn’t know their style’.

I think if a Chinese English teacher observed my class (indeed, any foreign teacher class), they may be in for a shock. Maybe they know what it is like, but my classes are (usually) noisy. Not noisy in a bad way, but, like, last week I was doing some free talk with students. They got into groups and I gave them a topic and they each had to talk about it in the group, for a minute (the lesson was on small talk). They did this well – better than I thought. It lasted a good chunk of the lesson. The topics ranged from weather, food, shopping, the weekend, to what they didn’t like about my class (silence), to what they did. Well, maybe not quite silence, haha, but I think they do enjoy the classes. I told the student who has switched that at least he got a taste of better – what it’s like. Many of his classmates won’t have had a foreign teacher at all, so they will only know their Chinese teacher.

I have to be careful here not to imply I’m the world’s greatest teacher – far from it. One student in class asked if I could speak a little slower next lesson, which is good advice (and I encourage them to tell me things like that). I get a little carried away sometimes and forget to speak slower. Nor am I saying all Chinese English classes are terrible. I haven’t seen any here, and I only saw a smattering at RDFZ last year. But they tend to be mostly focused on reading and writing, which is why they enjoyed our lessons so much I think (also because we didn’t give homework and it was a bit of a relaxed class). The only speaking they really got was a recitation they had to do.

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