I’m Teaching!

Who ever thought I would be a teacher? Yeah, it may be short-termed and not a life-time career choice, but right now I’m not just a teacher but a college professor. I have officially started teaching and had all of my classes for the first time this last week. I have seven classes of about 30 freshmen each and focus on spoken English. Five classes are English majors and two are Teaching Chinese as a Second Language majors.

I was so excited to finally start teaching. After sitting around for two weeks in Hefei, it was time, and it was great. My students were much more skilled at English than I feared. We can have basic conversations, and I can understand most everything they say. My goal is to grow their vocabulary and help them with their pronunciation and fluency.

This last week we focused on introductions. I have each class for two consecutive 40 minute periods once a week (not enough to really learn a language). For the first half of the class I introduced myself. I told them where I am from and introduced some new words like maverick, mascot and Alamo as I talked about Dallas and Texas.

I showed them a picture of my family, my nephew and half of my extended family and they were in awe. I think it’s because of something about not having more than one kid even though I have seen several two-child families. I can’t wait to show them pictures of my new nephew after he’s born in a few weeks.

We also talked about some of my favorite things. I taught them the word symmetry as I told them my favorite animal is the giraffe (look at a giraffe’s face straight on and you can see it is symmetrical) and the words soundtrack and animation as I told them my favorite music and movie. After introducing myself, I turned the tables, after all this is an oral English class and they need to talk.

I gave them a few criteria like “tell me something interesting about where you come from” and asked them questions like “Why are you an English major?” I had them write it all down first so they could process their thoughts and I could have something to take with me to get to know them a little better. Then, for the second half of the class, they got up one by one to introduce themselves.

There are so many skill levels among the students. I also quickly learned how each one is so different from the others. Some students just read their papers to me while others adlibbed and tried to joke and ask me questions. At first they were hesitant to even get up and I had to choose people, but eventually people started to volunteer.

Some things I learned about my students:

  • They come from all over China not just Hefei or Anhui Province.
  • Chinese kids, especially boys, love the NBA.
  • They are just like American kids and love to watch movies, play computer games, hang out with friends and sleep.
  • My university freshmen are 17-18 years old.
  • They want to learn English because they want to learn about American culture, travel someday outside of China and watch American movies.

One student wrote:

“I major in English in my college just because I want to improve myself. As for me, English is my shortcoming. It is a challenge. And I am glad to face all the difficulties that I will meet.”

I received several offers from my students to show me around their hometown as my tour guide. Some students gave very institutional answers and told me the place they come from is interesting because it is known for a specific industry like coal, tofu or tea or that their favorite color is a certain color because of its meaning. Some students gave very thoughtful and insightful answers and some were calling out for help.

I hope and pray that I can make my classes a bright spot in their week and do what I can to help those that need to be lifted up and taste a little bit of happiness in their lives. From what I understand, I will have these same students both semesters I’m here. It will be an exciting adventure.

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