It has been a fun, humbling, rocky, wonderful first semester of teaching. My students taught me so much and laughter helped pave a lot of the bumps in the road. Here are but a few stories.
From the first day, one student in particular would always stay after class to talk and his quotes and commentary on life were simply hilarious. Students themselves were my best teaching tool, so at my request he would sometimes offer me suggestions and then proceed to tell me, “But Teacher Anna, you’re the man!” This same delightfully quirky student would always bow to me before leaving. Traditional ancient China still lives on.
Sometimes language can cause funny situations. I had one student who came to me to tell me that another student would not be in class for several weeks because “she broke her ass.” Um, what? And what do you say to said student when she returns? Asking them about their rear end just doesn’t seem appropriate.
Texting students is also a normal, great, and efficient means of communication. Until in your haste you accidentally send a winky face instead of a smiley face to one of your young male students. It’s amazing how one little emoticon can change the whole meaning of “Nice to meet you too!”
One time I gave students an assignment to finish as homework and told them they were welcome to go ahead and leave whenever they were finished. They sat and stared at me. About five minutes later, I repeated the same thing. They still sat and stared at me. Finally when the bell rang I repeated my directions and asked if they understand and they vigorously nodded. It made me want to sing Semisonic’s “closing time, you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here.”
Because I taught all freshman this semester, their general shyness and lack of confidence in English made it sometimes difficult to truly forge connections. However, one of my student would frequently stay after my class ended at 6:10 (my stomach was always growling at that point) to talk for a little bit. This same student had the curse of technology trouble when she was trying to do a presentation for class. When she stayed after, she began crying and could not be comforted despite numerously assuring her that I was not at all upset, her grade would not be affected, and we would come up with a solution. Trying to move past somewhat of a language barrier and see if there was something else provoking this onslaught of tears, I asked if she had been very busy the past week. She then proceeded to tell me about a party she had gone to where the boys drank a lot and she drank some. A teaching moment, but where do you go with that statement? I thought she was going to tell me about test woes not weekend activities.
For Thanksgiving, I asked students what they knew about the holiday. Chinese students have some difficulty pronouncing the ‘th’ sound and often make a ‘s’ sound instead, so when one student responded with ‘thanks’ I heard ‘sex.’ “Anna, get your mind out of the gutter!” some of you might be thinking but my mind started to instantly race with how to delicately correct him…maybe he’s confused this with Valentine’s Day….fortunately he repeated himself twice and I heard “thanks” the second time around.
Also, I would highly recommend investing 20 seconds of class time to show your students the “Scary Car Commericial” YouTube video. If nothing else, it will liven them up for bit.
Another time I got a Chinese student to text my class group in Chinese on my phone pretending to be me. Maybe not the most professional move but certainly a fun one.
Teaching Chinese students has been a wonderful mix of teaching adults (well kinda) who have childish delight simply because you are a foreigner and therefore new and exotic. Don’t get me wrong, Chinese students still show up late for class, text in class, cheat in class, and fall asleep in class, foreign teacher or not. Yet the awe factor that comes from having blue eyes and very pale skin makes it unique teaching experience.