Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Thank You

Last spring, while still green towards this whole teaching gig, I found myself working my way through 18 weeks of "Literature" for English majors at the Harbin University of Science and Technology. The department assigned "Robinson Crusoe" and "A Tale of Two Cities," a pair of books that deserve good attention but a pair of books that proved an almost insurmountable task for the students assigned to my class.

In the end, despite a small handful of good students, I walked away from that experience rather jaded. Too much went wrong. Too often was my careful planning thrown back in my face. The harder I tried the more I seemed to fail, and the less I cared the better it seemed to go.

Eleven weeks ago I was given a new assignment, one that didn't exactly perk my enthusiasm. I had been scheming and coniving since the June to lock my scheduled hours into a configuration that guaranteed I'd never have to teach at HUST again. I didn't think I could handle the disappointment that first experience served all over again. And certainly not with a once-a-week, three-hour, no-direction-given-whatsoever non-English-major course.

I'm happy to say these kids proved me wrong.

I've explained how many Chinese students are forced into the English major as their admission scores were not high enough for other subjects. The result of all this usually manifests itself as lethargy or apathy towards their studies. But these kids were shooting for a second degree, they didn't view English as a requirement but as an opportunity. And that made all the difference in the world.

They were law majors and computer science majors. Some had ridiculous names like Mermaid or Garfield (a girl, yes, named after that craptacular movie) or Oven. Some never came to class and subsequently failed their exam yesterday, but most came and many participated wholeheartedly.

They'll probably never see this, and even if they did they probably wouldn't understand it. In fact, if you've never taught it'd be difficult for anyone to understand it, but those kids gave me a little faith back; back in China, back in teaching, and back in myself. Thanks.

PS: If you noticed the blackboard, yes, I was referencing "The Matrix" as we were doing some riddles and the topic of anagrams came up. As long as it gets the students to start talking, I don't care how trite or worn any topic may be.


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