Interesting Conversation

The other day a student approached me after class. He’s the class monitor, a leadership position in China. His English is at an intermediate level and he’ll probably get a grade in in the mid-80s (percent). He does all his work on time and thoroughly, but he isn’t naturally strong in English. He had three matters to bring up:

1. The level 2 (advanced beginner) story we’re listening to is too difficult. Could we return to level 1? I said I thought we should try to move up since they only get 20 more weeks of English (4 more weeks in this class and 16 in their final English class). I promised I wouldn’t use level 2 material on any quizzes or tests yet.

2. The book we were going to begin, a graded reader at an intermediate level, was too hard. I listened and said he should try reading it and assured him that previous years’ students were able to read and understand it. Again I mentioned that some challenge is important and that I carefully choose challenges that aren’t great leaps.

3. How do you get into a PhD program in the US?


You’re asking to make everything easier and while you’re doing so you often are unclear and make errors yet you’re planning to get a doctorate right after graduating from this third tier school.

I suggested he first concentrate on doing his best in his current classes and spending extra time on English. Then I asked, “Why don’t you first get a Masters?”

“That’s too simple for me. I want a PhD.”

Too simple? Simple? I think, “You didn’t get into a good college in China.” I ask him what his current grades are. He tells me that this school is way too simple for him. There are no resources here.

He replies “17” which made no sense so we went back and forth. “70?” Finally he wrote on the board 17 out of 99 students in his major. That seems fairly good, but it doesn’t indicate that the school is far to easy for him. It shows that it’s a pretty good fit. While I note the problem with him not being able to communicate this fairly simple information via oral English and his desire to be ready to get admitted to a (no doubt top) PhD program in two years, this doesn’t phase him.

Again, I urge him to consider getting a Masters after doing well here. I also ask if there’s a computer club (his major is information management) and whether he can get a leadership position in it. No, he’s got no time.

I then tell him he should do some extra research and read as many books, in Chinese or English, about the latest research in his industry. Perhaps his foreign professor can help him with that next semester.

I just can’t get over the grandiose thinking that’s rampant here. How a student can go from asking the teacher make the class a lot easier to then asking about PhD’s and not seeing the illogic.

He has no idea what a doctorate program is about and how it’s not just more of the same. He lacks research experience and by the time he graduates he will have done one research project, which is on par with most U.S. high school students.


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