JISHOU, HUNAN, CHINA -- The term is over, and I have just finished a grueling round of reading short essays and longer research papers from 157 college juniors. This one stands out as the most poignant cause-effect essay I have ever read. It will give you a glimpse into the "other side" of China, away from all the glitz and glitter of the big cities. You can also get a feel for the constant tug between tradition and new ways of thinking as China enters the world stage.
The author is a transfer student, who has already finished three years of junior college and is now a year short of getting her bachelors degree. (Five years altogether). JiDa in the essay refers to Jishou University (Jishou Daxue, in Chinese). I have only cleaned up her grammar and punctuation. The rest is all hers.
[Cross-posted at Wheatdogg's World.]
JISHOU, HUNAN --Chinese observers seem to draw two opposing conclusions from the Occupy Wall Street movement in the USA. The more common (state-approved) conclusion is: capitalism is bad, Marxism is good. The more thoughtful conclusion is: if the Chinese government doesn't deal with widespread corruption, China might see similar protests in the not-too-distant future.
Recently, one of my friends asked me what Chinese reactions to OWS were. So, I've spent some time poring over Internet reports and blogs to get a sense how OWS is playing over here. Since my grasp of Mandarin is weak still, and my access to movers and shakers is limited, take my comments here with a grain of salt.
Just days after Matthew Vadum of American Thinker proposed the dubious analogy that letting the poor vote was like giving crooks burglary tools, another brilliant mind pops up with similar cutting edge 18th century political ideas.
This time the mind in question belongs to John David Dyche, a Republican lawyer in Louisville, Kentucky. He wrote an opinion piece for the Courier-Journal entitled "Property rights crucial to voting rights."
He begins with another dubious analogy -- doctors this time, not second-story men.
JISHOU, HUNAN, CHINA -- It's been a long time (pre-dKos4, anyway) since I've written anything here, so I thought it was time for an update.
The other impetus for writing now is to implore any dKos readers who might be suitably inclined (or anyone you know who might be) to come here as a foreign teacher sometime ... like, uh, now would be good. I'm the only foreign teacher for about 400+ students now. I could use some help.
I have just completed my third year teaching English at this somewhat remote university in western Hunan. Next week, I start my fourth year, a record-setting term for any foreign teacher here, from what I hear.
Some of my friends in China are completely befuddled. Why would I, a foreigner, want to stay in a backwater university when I could be enjoying at least twice the income and more cosmopolitan surroundings in a bigger city?
Why indeed? I spent this summer contemplating this question, and found I had no compelling reasons to leave anytime soon. Read on if you want to know.
JISHOU, HUNAN -- It's getting to be speechifying season here again, and my first judging gig this year was a recitation contest for non-English majors.
The 29 contestants' selections were a compendium of uplifting quotations, essays, poems, songs and miscellania that could have come from one of those never-ending paperbacks full of uplifting quotations, essays, poems, songs and miscellania. In fact, that's where some of them came from. I think it's an unwritten rule here that English recitation material has to be really sappy and sentimental.
Having nothing better to do than marking about 100 tests (no joke), I spent a couple of hours one night checking the provenance of all these uplifting pieces about love, mom, friendship, self-worth, growing old, love, life's setbacks, and mom.
Here's a rundown of the afternoon's selections, to give you an idea of what I mean.
JISHOU, HUNAN, CHINA — Classes have been in session for two weeks now. Everything's going well, but I've had my first major run-in with the monolithic Chinese education system.
As was the case last year, I am teaching 16 classes a week (that’s eight groups of students for 100 minutes at a go), but with some changes in subjects and students. This term, I am teaching oral English to the freshman and sophomore undergraduates majoring in Business English, and Western Culture and Civilization to the juniors in Business English.
None of the juniors have oral English classes anymore, which befuddles me, but apparently It’s the Way Things Are Done Here™, according to fellow foreign teachers at other schools. The Business English students have a course in public speaking, but the English education majors — who will presumably be teaching English — have no more English language classes. More about that later.
JISHOU, HUNAN, CHINA — So, I’m staying another year here. As it was last year, the decision was an easy one to make.
Logically speaking, it doesn’t make too much sense. Jishou is a small city, with few (Western-style) amenities. It takes at least two hours to get to the nearest airport. And Jishou University is an also-ran in the rankings of China’s institutions of higher learning.
My friends in bigger cities in China have encouraged me to look elsewhere for teaching jobs in China. One said, "The pay will be better, and the students will be more excellent."
Yes, and no.
JISHOU, HUNAN, CHINA -- Anyone who teaches English as a Second Language in China sooner or later gets called on to give private lessons or classes, or to put it another way, to get sucked into the maelstrom of English-learning angst here.
Some of your students might be university students trying for high scores on their postgraduate exams (the Chinese equivalent of the GRE), which include a pretty tough section on English skills, or the two main qualification exams for foreign study, TOEFL and IELTS.
But, by far most of your potential students will be middle school students (and their parents) who want high scores on the college entrance examination, and primary school students whose upwardly mobile parents want them to get into a good middle school.
JISHOU, HUNAN, CHINA -- Today while I was watching a girl with the English name Jackie teach some vocabulary this morning, I could tell she would be a successful person in the future. The thought just popped into my head unbidden, so I hope it's a good sign.
I don't know Jackie all that well. She's a freshman. Since I see my students only two hours a week, that means I have had only about 24 hours of contact time with Jackie and most of her classmates. Furthermore, since I teach her class composition and not spoken English, we rarely even talk to each other in class.
JISHOU, HUNAN, CHINA -- Feb. 14 was the beginning of the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese calendar. It also marks the start of the Spring Festival, several days of eating, drinking, giving and visiting that are as important to Chinese as the Thanksgiving-to-New-Year's period is to Americans or the High Holy Days to Jews worldwide.
This is my second Spring Festival in China. As I did last year, I celebrated it with friends here in Jishou. Both times, I was welcomed as a member of the family, lavished with great food, baijiu and gifts.
One of my freshmen, Wu Chengjun (whose English name is appropriately Smile), has been blogging in English about the Festival in her QQ space. Her entries were so fresh and honest, I asked her if I could share them with friends in the USA.
JISHOU, HUNAN, CHINA -- The fall term is coming to a close here. I gave my exams this week, and will spend the next two weeks reading and marking them, so I can return home to see my offspring with a clear conscience.
Before exams, I decided to give my students -- and me -- a break, and show them a movie. Of course, it had to have some educational value.
Believe it or not, Christmas, at least among our students, is a big thing here in China. They learn about the holiday as part of their English lessons in middle school, but still have only a hazy idea of what it is all about. Chinese textbook authors condense Christmas traditions from the USA, Europe and the UK into a mishmosh of ideas that serve only to confuse, not inform.
Students ask me about how we celebrate Christmas in the USA, and I give them a pretty generic description, based on my own memories of 50-odd previous Christmases. But descriptions, particularly for ESL students, do not really convey the spirit of the holiday. So, I chose A Christmas Carol as the movie I would show all my classes.
JISHOU, HUNAN, CHINA -- Friday, my sophomores in oral English were more animated than I've seen them in ages. It was a set of posters that livened them up.
To preface this diary, I need to explain that our classrooms here are barebones dull: white painted walls, beige tile floors, fluorescent tube lighting, wooden desks and chairs bolted to the floor, and a single double-wide chalkboard. We at least have ample natural lighting from the windows along the exterior wall.
And no heat, but that's for another diary. [It was at least warmer today than yesterday's high of 6° C (about 43° F).]