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Q: Self-awareness and general competence

Hi everyone. Long time viewer, first time poster.

 

I've been working as a teacher for a few years now and I've always struggled to understand the general thought processes of your average local, and this doesn't just include people who haven't had the same opportunities as us to benefit from a decent education.

 

I've worked with people over the years who have advanced degrees but who seem completely incapable of logical reasoning and a disinterested or detached contemplation of systems and institutions which they've worked within for a very long period of time.

 

My current job is with a company which places teachers in local public schools. My schedule is pretty good. 20 teaching hours per week, but my time is divided between teaching two classes of three different grades in a primary school and four classes of the first grade of high school. I am supposed to have a TA assist me in my primary school position, but during most of my classes she doesn't even show up, and she can't seem to speak even a lick of English.

 

I've always tried to avoid primary school, but here's my real problem. My high school students can barely speak any English at all. I was given a book to use when I'm teaching and I've used the material from the book to design spoken and written exercises to help the students to internalize and then practice using in a practical and functional way in order to become fluent. This is the standard practice for language acquisition all over the world. The main thing I do is create materials which are topical and ask questions which are mildly contentious without being outright controversial. What I design, in other words, are exercises where people can express themselves without being told they're wrong.

 

When I present students with the material they just sit there and don't work at it. These people are 15 years old and have probably "studied" English for about 7 or 8 years.

 

Recently I was 'fortunate' enough to receive some unsolicited advice about how to improve my teaching methods. I was told the students were losing interest because they felt like the material was not useful to them. My response as a man who prides himself on forthrightness, honesty and an obligation to the students under my auspices was to tell the management that the main problem the students are facing is that they're overburdened with pointless homework and have rote learned nonsense for so long that they've developed a compulsive obsession with output, without being able to discern or even identify the quality or utility of what they're churning out. I was told that the students now audit their teachers (something which sounds like one of Mao Zedong's late 1960s brainfarts) and that many of them felt that they weren't improving their English in my class.

 

My opinion is that their problems are caused by the teaching methods in a small part, but an understated major factor is the idiocy and lack of moral or professional responsibility of the bureaucrats and managers in the Department of Education. When I pointed this out I was told that most people agree, but because this is China, they have no choice but to obey. I said that as a non-Chinese I would never presume to tell them how they ought to run their country, but if some fossil who grew up during the cultural revolution thought he could advise me on how to teach or how young people should go about acquiring knowledge, then he'd better get ready to have his glass heart shattered.

 

The most sinister part of the recommendation I was given was that the students wanted me to strictly punish them if they broke any rules, and these rules were suggested by the students themselves. Why can't they just adopt them as personal principles and adhere to them independently? I am tempted to introduce "sadomasochism" into their vocabulary sheet for next week, but that's well beyond the usual 8 year old level I adopt when I'm teaching here in China.

 

Today I attended a demonstration class where I was shown the ideas that the teachers had for improving the students' learning. The material was highly simplistic and many grammatical and pronunciation errors were given to the students by the teacher. When it came time for the students to speak, the only ideas they were capable of bringing forth into the discussion came from either the teachers' ppt or were extracted verbatim from the textbook in front of them.

 

So how can people sit here and think that students who have spent almost a decade learning a language but freeze up like an astronaut whose helmet has fallen off in space when asked simple subjective and topical questions like "do you think Apple will be profitable for much longer?" "why do you think people in South America love soccer while North Americans mostly dislike it?" should have any input into the process of learning when they haven't been provided with information about how to learn properly in the first place? It's like asking a loony how to run the asylum: "I don't like the way Dr Hader's visor reflects the sun during TV time and the syringe he jams into my arse hurts. I'd rather go without my meds and stroll around town. Maybe buy a handgun..."

 

How can people exempt the most culpable individuals (department heads and bureaucrats who insist on the 120 hour study week), but insist on criticizing the kind of person which hundreds of thousands of people pool together hundreds of thousands to millions of yuan to pay to educate their kid properly because, by their own admission, the people who run the education system in their own country suck at it so much? I'll bet most of the hongbao money the teachers and headmasters are collecting is going to send someone to the west to get taught by someone just like me.

 

Can't they see that they're completely shite at teaching if someone spends a decade learning something and can't even use it to answer the most rudimentary questions imaginable?

 

Do you see a 6000 year old developing country in the making?

3 years 47 weeks ago in  Teaching & Learning - China

 
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As you said "this is China"
Even the better spoken people I've met have that social halo hanging over them . (My wife included).
Look at everything in China , it progresses quickly to a point then stops dead in its tracks like there is some invisible wall infront of them.
Until they are told by the top to move forward, they think they are at the top of the standard. Nothing will get them to move untill they are told to.
By the way that was an interesting read....nice to meet you

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3 years 47 weeks ago
 
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As you said "this is China"
Even the better spoken people I've met have that social halo hanging over them . (My wife included).
Look at everything in China , it progresses quickly to a point then stops dead in its tracks like there is some invisible wall infront of them.
Until they are told by the top to move forward, they think they are at the top of the standard. Nothing will get them to move untill they are told to.
By the way that was an interesting read....nice to meet you

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3 years 47 weeks ago
 
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Advanced degrees mean absolutely nothing in China. I've taught grad students at top provincial schools and they all have the same policy, under no circumstances can a student fail. They pass by doing 'favors' for their Chinese teachers. 

Example, one of my students is doing an exchange program, she told me about a guy from a top 5 Chinese university who completely embarrassed himself on a project but was proud because he didn't have to work hard like everyone else and he'll get the grade he wants anyway (he'll get a teacher to change it back in China).

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3 years 47 weeks ago
 
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Many good points in the OP.

 

Motivation, as we  all know, is the key.

 

So, I would first ask, what are their motives?In their parents' 'adult' world, in PRC, you can't be far wrong if you answer money and face (ego).  Given that these psychos didn't even have decent quality tampons or underwear to wear when they were kids all the way to their adulthood, this is understandable. It is actually very simple if the factors are limited to poverty and ego, ie low self-esteem. Countries like Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, and the Pearl of the Orient, Hong Kong (granted, not a country) are all once poor, yet English teachers don't find their students that recalcitrant  as the ones you are facing.

 

Why is that?  Communism.  None of these once poor places, except china, is a communist country. What does that to the china mainlanders, or daluren? It turns them into warmongers and haters of western developed countries, as they struggle to buy even a tampon, not joking here.  Can you imagine how twisted their psyches are?

 

Just go out tonight and walk around the alleys where you find those little stores selling snacks, cigarettes, electric appliances.....many of them have a ﹥20 years old cathode ray tube tv on, you will see the same channel on, central gov't station, and what program is on every f*cking night? A pretending to be news program, talking about china's military might, strategy, how strong it is, how evil Japan raped china a god-damn more than half a century ago.

 

I actually talked to two zombies, the storekeepers, at around 8pm.  Two different stores, one a 30 years old guy with a 5 years old kid, the other a 45ish woman. I asked them, why do you keep watching these programs, carrying the hatred of your grandfather's generation, passing them down to your children, generations after generations?  You don't see the Jews living in rage, swearing they will put the Germans into gas chambers some god damn day!!!

 

Identical answers from both psychos, 'you don't understand us'. Well, the woman is slightly better, she adds, so the next generation will be better prepared when Japan does it again, she then brings up the foreign devils who looted beijing summer palace more than one f*cking century ago.

 

What do you think their motives for learning English are, kid and adults?

 

Why do you think the communists are running the same broken record every evening, and why do the zombies glue their eyes to it?

 

You go teach them English?

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3 years 47 weeks ago
 
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Mate, I've taught in public schools before. I hated them - just found them to be soul destroying places, which might be what they're designed to do actually.

 

One thing I have learnt is that the main goal of most public schools is to have their students memorize the answers to the test so they can regurgitate the answers, ace the test and 'prove' to everyone how great the school and teachers are. If the kids are blatantly cheating during the test that's just fine too, it's great for results and woe betide the foreign teacher who tries to stop it. He will be screamed at by furious students and teachers and told it's not fair and that he doesn't understand why it's not cheating because laowai can't understand the culture, or some such bullshit...  Then glared at and given the cold shoulder later in the office.

 

Forget asking questions that ask for an opinion. Even if the poor kids have one they will be stressed because they don't know what the 'correct' opinion is.

 

I've was in the situation in a language school I worked at where a mother, wanting a weekend English class brought in her daughter as a potential student.  The receptionist told the mother I would give her a simple assessment test to determine the most appropriate class and this is where the mother told us that the girl's public school teacher had assured the mother that her daughter's English was near the best in the class and she always got 100% in tests etc etc so we should just go ahead and put her in the top class.

 

She couldn't answer basic questions like what's your name? Can you...? Do you like...?  The other kids in reception were watching the show and repeating the questions in Chinese for her and the girl still had problems . The mother saw all of this but flat out refused to accept that her daughter's English level was waaaay lower than any of the (much younger) kids in reception.

 

She said that their (Chinese) public school teacher had taught them 'proper' pronunciation and mine was probably 'wrong' , I was asking questions she hadn't heard before so it wasn't a fair assessment, we used different text books to the public school, well she can ace her Chinese English test so what do I have to say about that.....  anything to avoid admitting her daughter just didn't even have a basic level of English. Or maybe she even believed it, who knows.

 

And that's the real problem in my opinion. Too often actual results don't mean a thing, people just want to hear flattering lies and if something happens to show the lie for what it is they'll just make excuses to deny it rather than face the truth then go back to the school which will continue to stroke the ego rather than actually teach something.

 

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3 years 47 weeks ago
 
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haha,, public HS I used to work at,, called HS #1 had a pretty big staff of English teachers, granted I was the only 'White Devil',,,  but the funniest thing I found out about the place was that the English teaching staff couldn't understand me either,,,  lol... let alone the students.  I used to wonder about that,,, then it hit me,, it's like learning to play tennis by looking at the ball.  In other words, these teachers never used the language, or precious little anyway.  Never heard them speaking it to one another in the office.

Needed Samuel L. Jackson to show up there and set them straight! frown

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3 years 47 weeks ago
 
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There is very little self-awareness in your average Chinese person.

I have found that their thoughts are mainly about 'face' and money.

 

Rather than fix blindingly obvious problems, things are brushed over so they 'look nice' and are 'harmonious'

 

The education system is a case in point.

it is blindingly obvious that there are major flaws in the way English is taught in China, hence the inability to speak even after years of 'learning'.

 

Chinese schools don't want the blindingly obvious pointed out, especially if money is to be made on the back of not disturbing the status quo.

at times it can feel like continually banging your head against a wall.

but then most students don't want to put in the effort required to acquire English, as it will make them 'unhappy' to do actual work.

And sure being able to speak english is of no use when it comes to passing exams.

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Answer of the DayMORE >>
A: Can a new employer help you? Possibly but it's really hard to say for
A:Can a new employer help you? Possibly but it's really hard to say for sure. I used to be involved in hiring new teachers and a couple of times we had people we wanted to hire who were having trouble with their old school - situations similar to yours. Our school was legally able to hire foreign teachers, did everything by the book and was well connected, usually schools that mess people around with visa stuff aren't operating legally so a call from our visa guy to theirs telling them they were breaking the law, we were in the middle of processing the visa stuff with the PSB and the next phone call they got regarding this teacher was likely to be from the PSB asking some hard questions was usually enough to get them to co-operate. No school doing illegal stuff wants the PSB getting too interested in what they're doing. There's a chance a new employer could figure something out if they really want to hire you but these are difficult times, their hands might be tied too.    -- Stiggs