For my teaching license, I am required
to take a class called “Mainstreaming,”
in which we learn about every kind
of kid who could walk or be wheeled
through our future classroom doors.
Not the blind, the deaf, and the handicapped,
but students with
blindness, deafness, developmental delays,
autism, moderate to severe
learning disabilities, hyperactivity,
attention deficit, oppositional defiance
disorder, and so on.
The instructor, an elementary
principal by day, who outlines
each chapter and reads to us
these outlines each Wednesday
from six to nine, devotes
one hour one night to the subject
of students with
gifts and talents, who might also
come through our future.
Regarding special programs
for such students, one teacher-candidate asks,
“Do you have to be gifted to teach them?”
“No.” The principal-instructor
shakes her head, as if
such a thing would be impossible.
“Not many gifted people
go into education.”
This week my library class is examining “Engaging Community.” It’s easy to think that since we have social media, we’re a community, but I think community means more. I know those who think Web 2.0 connections are good, but not as good as face-to-face ones are written off as old fashioned. Sherry Turkle engages us with this question.
Should they be? What is community to you? Is it different from a group?
Hŭ tóu shé wĕ is translated “tiger’s head, snake’s body.” This Chinese saying describes how things can start out well with a project or partnership and then (all too soon) the quality fades. In the book Poorly Made in China, this saying is mentioned a lot as it is how the Chinese like to do things all too often.
I saw this at Xiang Jiang High School where I taught for Coastline Community College. They cut back on time spent teaching English, on resources, but not on tuition. It’s happened with the Australian program here and my program. When I first started teaching here students got 10 hours a week of English. Now they get 8. Next year some freshmen will get 4 hours with the others soon to follow suit as they did with the Univ. of Tasmanian students. When all the first years get 4, then all the other students will just get 6. They’ll have more time mainly for test prep with the Chinese English teachers, some are fine and others aren’t. The less skilled Chinese English teachers just talk about English in Chinese. It’s the best they can do. They use a lot of rote learning. As these hours with Western educators decreases, the students will be less prepared to take on the daunting task of business or technology classes in English.
The program becomes a Potemkin Village, with a high price tag.
I’m reading the absorbing Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard by English professor and Shakespeare expert, Laura Bates. Bates grew up in a poor neighborhood with plenty of crime and troubles. After getting her doctorate, she begins teaching in an Indiana prison a few days a week. Her employer, University of Indiana offered courses to prisoners. After awhile she convinces the prison to allow her to teach in prisoners in solitary confinement. Her school’s not on board so she does this for free.
Bates describes the details of the high security section of the prison, all the thick double doors she has to go through and all the perils she must avoid. The heart of the book is her engagement with the convicted murders she works with. Their insights and engagement with the plays are a far cry from what you’d expect from men imprisoned for life. Bates’s book also relates the men’s narratives – how they got where they are. It’s an absorbing read. I’d love to see Steppenwolf or the Chicago Shakespeare Theater dramatize it.
Edbeds.com is a way for educators to save on accommodations when traveling. The website lists and describes members’ beds and rooms that welcome guests, who must be teachers, for just $49 a night.
I haven’t tried this because I don’t have accommodations to offer now. My apartment in China is too small and the school wouldn’t be keen on this sort of hospitality. Perhaps once I move to my next job, I can try this.
Our first week back at was last week and it was sheer pandemonium and chaos. That’s always the case, but this was more so. On Tuesday there was confusion over a classroom that two classes thought they were assigned to and on Friday my students got lost. Eventually they found our room.
In China the students take most of their courses with their cohort. There are very few electives so you’re basically herded through your college years as you were in high school. You live and take classes with your homeroom.
Only half the first year students have books and the listening CDs and DVDs aren’t here.
It never ceases to amaze me but it’s as if we arrived by surprise a week early. Several of the apartments have plumbing and other problems. Now I’ve got water dripping from the apartment above and the heat lamp in my shower is dangling preparing to fall. All these things have been reported and usually they get fixed in a timely fashion, but I’m still waiting and nervously taking very short showers.
Things are looking up though as the students have settled into school a bit. I’ve had my English 3 students before and have half as many new names to learn. I’m in the clean brick building with actual desks and chairs rather than benches. And, I can’t smell the bathrooms from where I am! That’s such a blessing.
After a rough week, I did get a free drink at Starbucks on Saturday and got some great emails over the weekend. The weather is toying with us, springlike last Thursday till Saturday and now back to the 50s, but that glimpse of spring reassures me that the real thing is on its way.
I offer the YouTube on cheating as I give my midterm tests today. I tried so hard to make it unnecessary and impossible to cheat. We practiced a lot for the test in class. There are no surprises in terms of tricky questions. It’s all stuff that if you’ve paid attention, you can pass. You might not get a B+, but you’ll pass.
Then before we begin, it’s a big production of seating the students. I know some kids arrange to sit near a classmate so one can look off the other’s test. Well, I randomly assign test seats and don’t allow any belongings other than writing implements with the students. Everything else is at the front of the room.
On top of that there are two versions of the test and the papers are color coded. You have to know that the students with yellow tests probably have different questions than you do.
Let me reiterate, the questions are not surprising and they are on topics like movies and life experience so they aren’t arcane.
Well, two kids smuggled their phones with them. That’s cheating in this class. From law school and just life in general, I’ve learned to make the rules something that’s indisputable. We could go on and on till the cows come home about how, “I wasn’t looking at my phone.” That is hard to substantiate, but whether you’ve got a phone or not is clear. A nice bright line.
I suppose 2 out of 32 students isn’t a bad percentage though.
I had my first power struggle of the year in class today. I don’t recall any problems like this last year and they’re rare in China. I’ve got a new class and another class with students I’ve taught before. The new class has a lot of willing students of varying levels and a few who lean towards incorrigible. Four were absent the first couple days which is unusual for China. Truants tend to show up the first week and then occasionally if there’s a speech they must give or a test to, in their case fail. It puzzles me that they bother, but they do.
After I asked the administrators to see if these students had transferred out, the four appeared, no doubt unwillingly. I almost wish I hadn’t said anything. They act like middle school troublemakers, which I suppose isn’t as bad as acting like high school rebels. These boys giggle and poke each other when they aren’t playing with their phones. While some students were giving speeches I saw some kids playing with cell phones so I confiscated them promising to return them at the end of the class. I hoped to nip this problem in the bud.
During the break, the boy whose phone I had took his back. When class resumed I asked the students where the phone was. No one said anything. Eventually one boy said it was his phone and he wouldn’t use it. I told him he needed to put the phone back on my podium. Defiant, he refused. He was really quite a jerk about it.
I don’t believe in losing my cool, but I also didn’t want to cave in setting a bad precedent for the semester. I repeated my directions to place the phone back on the podium and said he’d have it at the end of class. He refused. Then I said unless the phone was forfeited, the end of the week video would not be shown and we would do work in the book instead.
That worked as his classmates urged him to forfeit the phone. My training as an elementary teacher again pays off as I teach in a Chinese university.
My first group of students who graduated last year has said that the “younger” generation is more selfish and rebellious. It seems like I got a taste of that today. I don’t think this group will be easy. I hope I’m wrong.
I wish I could teach you how ugly
decency and humility can be when they are not
the election of a contained mind but only
the defenses of an incompetent. Were you taught
meekness as a weapon? Or did you discover,
by chance maybe, that it worked on mother
and was generally a good thing—
at least when all else failed—to get you over
the worst of what was coming? Is that why you bring
these sheep-faces to Tuesday?
They won’t do.
It’s three months’ work I want, and I’d sooner have it
from the brassiest lumpkin in pimpledom, but have it
than all these martyred repentances from you.
Cheat It Up, Cheatin’ Cheater! (Photo credit: Mr_Stein)
It’s the last week of my semester. Unfortunately, the academic honesty rates are soaring. I caught 5 people cheating on the exam. One in the first class and then another in class two. I then announced to class three if no one cheated in that class everyone in the class would receive 5 bonus points. Everyone needs every point they can get in that class.
I’m sad to report that I found 3 cheaters.
Don’t get me started on all the plagiarism. It’s gotten worse. In the past I’ve had one person cheat on an exam per semester. I tell everyone to put their phones on the podium at the front of the room.
I know these students see education as a game with the object of gaining as little knowledge or skill as they pass through various school systems. I’d have a little more respect for them if in their downtime, they were inventing the next technological gadget or even say rock climbing. Nope. I doubt many are using the time they don’t spend studying on anything with merit.